Page 1





The true story of his most extreme role

p. 68

HILLSONG UNITED The prayer that sparked

a global movement

p. 78

Lead singer Nathan Willett opens up about his faith, mistakes and the band’s new drive PRINTED ON RECYCLED PAPER


p. 54

02 02


2 66 9 9 255227744 66336699

ISSUE ISSUE 47 49 || SEPT_OCT JAN_FEB 2011 2010| $4.95 | $4.95




“I’m speechless in trying to describe this book. I think this book will change people’s lives, and more—it can save lives, in the many senses of that word.” —Brian McLaren, Best-selling Author

New York City pastor Selmanovic synthesizes his upbringing in a Muslim-atheist household and his own conversion to Christianity to create this concise and entertaining interfaith memoir. Selmanovic imagines our religions becoming not walls we hide behind, but bridges over which we travel to find God in the other.

GOD. LIFE. PROGRESSIVE CULTURE. RELEVANT magazine January/February 2011, Issue 49 Now with 100% more monocles. EDITOR, PUBLISHER & CEO Cameron Strang > Editorial Director | Roxanne Wieman > Associate Editor | Ashley Emert > Associate Editor | Ryan Hamm > Editorial Assistant | Alyce Gilligan > Contributing Editor | Josh Loveless > Contributing Writers: Bryan Allain, John Brandon, Shane Claiborne, Dan Haseltine, Rachel Held Evans, Adam and Chrissy Jeske, David Johnson, Carl Kozlowski, Jonathan Merritt, Jessica Misener, Serena Noonan, John Pattison, David Roark, Adam Smith, Kelsey Timmerman, Sara Sterley, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove Design Director | Amy Duty > Senior Designer | Chaz Russo > Senior Marketing Designer | Jesse Penico > Contributing Photographers: Eric Ryan Anderson, Amanda Bates, Jeremy Cowart, Amjad Faur, Doran Gild, Bradley Meinz, Raychel Mendez, Kelsey Timmerman, Zach Wolfe, Gage Young, Chuck Zlotnick STYLIST: Monica Schweiger Chief Marketing & Finance Officer | Josh Babyar > Advertising Manager | Michael Romero > Director of Channel Development | Philip Self > Promotions and Campaigns Manager | Sarahbeth Wesley > Circulation Coordinator | Rachel Gittens > Marketing Assistant | Richard Butcher > Chief Innovation Officer | Chris Miyata > Audio/Video Producer | Chad Michael Snavely > Systems Administrator | Josh Strohm > Web Developer | David Barratt > Web Production Assistant | Dave Turpin > Communications Manager & Exec. Assistant | Theresa Dobritch > Project Manager | Austin Sailsbury > Finance Manager | Maya Strang > FOR ADVERTISING INQUIRIES, PLEASE CONTACT Michael Romero (407) 660-1411 x 125 APOLOGIES: Neil Visel for missing his photo credit on his Zach Galifianakis image in Nov/Dec 2010.

TO SUBSCRIBE Phone: (Toll-free) 877-538-4417 Rates: 1 year (6 issues) U.S. $14.95, Canada $24.95, International $30.95

bulk discounts Call 877-538-4417 for special bulk subscription discounts for your organization

Media Group Where having full-time jobs sure cramps our drifter lifestyles. 1220 Alden Road, Orlando, FL 32803 Phone: 407-660-1411 Fax: 407-401-9100

Subscriber Services

Not sure what those boxes are? Phone: (Toll-free) 877-538-4417 U.S. and Canada, 651-251-9689 International

They’re QR codes. Here’s what to do with them.

Distribution If you are a retailer and would like to carry RELEVANT, please contact: Ales Kot Rider Circulation Services > > 323-344-1200 x247

1. Download the app

QR codes are two-dimensional barcodes that can be read by smart phone cameras. Search “QR code” to find a free QR app for your phone.

2. Scan the code RELEVANT Issue #49 Jan/Feb 2011 (ISSN: 1543-317X) is published 6 times a year in January, March, May, July, September and November for $14.95 per year by RELEVANT Media Group, Inc., 1220 Alden Road, Orlando, FL 32803. Periodicals postage paid at Orlando, FL, and at additional mailing offices.

POSTMASTER: Send address changes to RELEVANT magazine, P.O. Box 11687, St. Paul, MN 55111-9913.

Hold your phone over a box. The app will use your camera to read the code.

3. Enjoy

The code will direct your phone to a site with a video, some music, a photo or other goody.




12 First Word 14 Letters 18 Slices 32 The Pulse: Can Offensive Art Be Christian? 34 WORLDVIEW: Resurrecting Liturgy 36 The Drop

Green River Ordinance, Lecrae, Bradley Hathaway

42 Re-Imagining Heaven 46 Ra Ra Riot 48 The Resurrection of Blue Like Jazz: The Movie 50 A Tea Party Gospel 54 Cold War Kids

Coming clean about faith, mistakes and entering a new season

60 11 Predictions for ’11 RELEVANT boldly predicts the trends

and train wrecks of 2011

64 One Day in the Slum 68 A Narrow Escape Aron Ralston was trapped in a crevasse for 127

hours, only freeing himself by an act of desperation

72 A Realistic Guide to Love 84 Why Faith Needs Doubt

Five tips to help you through a dark time in your faith

92 Recommends


What Are Those Boxes All Over the Issue? You might notice we’re tr ying something new. Throughout this issue you’ll see pixelated squares called QR codes that link to multimedia content, like a movie trailer or album. It’s a way we’re enhancing our music and film coverage—adding select video and audio content to our print magazine—and a step toward the multimedia integration you’ll see in upcoming app and tablet versions of RELEVANT. How does it work? Just download a QR code app for your smar t phone (there are plenty of good, free ones out there), launch the app and scan the code. The content—video, song, etc.—will pop right up. We know the squares aren’t the best looking things, but they could add a nice, new dimension to the print magazine experience. So, kick the tires on the QR codes and let us know what you think at feedback@

Make it matter.

College. What is it for? Getting a top-notch education so that you can start a successful career? Yes. Being stretched by books, professors and ideas? Most definitely. But at Biola, it’s even more. This is a place where, in an all-Christian community, you will be prepared for an influential future. At Biola, you’ll find a community that teaches, learns, and thinks deeply … and then does something about it.

Southern California | 1.800.OK.BIOLA |





The morality of democratic capitalism

Financial cycles and human prosperity

A biblical perspective on humans and the natural world








Distinctively Christian Intentionally Urban Purposefully Multicultural


a real resolution BY CAMERON STRANG I’m not really one for New Year’s resolutions. Invariably, the Bally membership goes unused, coffee becomes a daily habit again and the pre-bedtime routine drifts back to watching Seinfeld instead of reading two books a week. That’s why I hesitate to ever write about change in our January issue. People could easily dismiss it as another cliché seasonal challenge, when we all know lasting change isn’t prompted because we overindulged during the holidays. Ironically, though, change is an unintentional theme in this issue. From the cover story, where Cold War Kids lead singer Nathan Willet talks about how his faith (and struggles) prompted him to change his life and music, to changing how we view heaven, to changing our perception of what life in a Nairobi slum is really like, or even changing our approach and expectations toward relationships, the following pages are connected by a thread I can honestly say we didn’t plan. Subtle surprises like that happen all the time as our team works to put an issue together. As we chase the ideas we get excited about, that challenge us and we think need to be told, we see an issue take shape. We move stories that would be better in the next issue and go after last-minute ideas, even if it means some late nights. Our crew is passionate and committed to putting together the best magazine we can,


and what you get in your mailbox every other month is the result. That’s how all magazines are done, right? Sadly, it’s an approach that’s becoming rare. Imagine you pick up a magazine and, as you flip through it, you see there are three ads in the issue that relate to the cover story in some way. What would you think?

the highest bidder. To sell a magazine filled with articles that were “bought,” yet present them as though they weren’t, seems dishonest to me In our magazine, we cover what we feel strongly about. Our passions—and the passions of our readers—drive the decisions we make. There’s no confusion between what content we’re producing and what pages are paid messages. Since our first issue, we’ve made it a point to not allow advertising to influence our editorial decisions. We’re not for sale. We feel the short-term financial gain of compromise is not worth the long-term cost. Integrity has a price. In a questionable economy, I can understand the appeal of guaranteed advertising dollars, even if it means losing editorial integrity. But that doesn’t mean it’s worth it. Integrity is built over years, but lost in an instant. Having integrity is more important in daily decisions than in public declarations. Everything we do needs to be weighed against our standards, morals and faith. One compromise, and thousands of previous integrous decisions can be wiped out. This isn’t just about media selling out. This is a wake-up in other areas as well. Are we going to be content going with the flow and letting our standards erode little by little? Or are we going to say enough is enough, and stand for what’s right? I believe our generation will be the one to buck business as usual. We’re going to be the ones to chart a new course and say, “If we can’t do something the right way, it’s not worth doing at all.” I believe compromise will fail, and those who choose integrity will be the ones left standing.

integrity is built over years, but lost in an instant. Few readers realize it, but it’s becoming fairly common practice for editorial coverage in magazines—including cover stories—to be influenced or even bought by advertisers. That wouldn’t be surprising in certain industries, but when I heard about some Christian magazines adopting the practice, it struck me as odd. Don’t get me wrong—there’s nothing wrong with advertising. It’s what makes this magazine, and all media, possible, and at its best lets readers know about products and events that could enhance their lives. Plus, I’m a sucker for a good ad campaign, like the bizarre Old Spice commercials. But there’s a difference between an ad and the editorial content for which people buy the magazine. There’s an issue of trust at stake, and it’s a dangerous road to head down if the articles in a magazine are simply available to

The subtle theme of change that appears throughout this January issue may not have been planned, but it is probably here for a reason. It’s the time of year for us to pause, see things how they are, envision how they could be and pursue making a difference with reckless abandon. We need to do what’s right, as best we can, every day, especially when other people don’t know. That’s called integrity. And having it sounds like a great New Year’s resolution.

CAMERON STRANG is the founder and CEO of RELEVANT. He’s a lover, not a fighter. You can connect with him daily via Twitter (@ cameronstrang) or less often at














Order online at RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM/SUBSCRIBE *Rate valid in the U.S. only. Subscribers will receive one album upon payment for subscription. The three subsequent albums will be made available to subscribers within the calendar year of their subscription.


LETTERS Zach Galifianakis is a humor genius [“Inside the Bizarre, OffKilter, Hilarious Mind of Zach Galifianakis,” Nov/Dec 10]. His fauxawkwardness is everything I wish my real awkwardness would be perceived as. His views of social norms and reactions stun the majority of viewers, but I think they’re amazing. RELEVANT, thank you for covering this gem of our generation. —JASPER ALLEN / Albany, GA


“The Drunk and the Hypocrite” by Jon Foreman [Nov/Dec 10] was fantastic and well said. Hypocrisy runs wild—while the world goes to hell, where is the Church? The true Church? Sex trafficking booms to a $32 billion industry with millions of children being dragged into it. People are starving and dying because they don’t have clean water. Where are we? Are we in a meeting? Are we self-justifying? Are we just doing “me” way too well? —adam harper / Canton, OH

It astounds me again and again as I observe theatrical art (be it movies, skits, plays, dramas, Hollywood/Bollywood), how much it aids and reminds Christians of how we ought to communicate the Gospel [“The Art of Faith,” Nov/Dec 10]. The communication of the Gospel is so worthy of every acting skill, every dramatization tool, to convince us what is true really is true, and how true it is in our lives. ­—Luke OlsOn / Chicago, IL True story: There is a Bollywood film based on Jesus’ life currently being made. We can’t make this stuff up—but we do wish we thought of it first.

Gabe Lyons’ thoughts on the next Christians were especially inspiring to me [“The Next Christians,” Nov/Dec 10]. I don’t know how much I see these characteristics represented in our generation just yet, but the bar is being set, and I think there is hope for such habits and mindsets to be associated with Christianity in the future. —rick barnett / Charlotte, NC


I loved Cameron Strang’s article, “The Price of Vision” [Nov/Dec 10]. I’m one of those twentysomethings he mentioned, combining my instant-gratification, savethe-world generational mindset with a heart for following Christ. Cameron’s words are a necessary reminder that perseverance must accompany conviction—and, more importantly, that having to persevere isn’t a bad thing! —Andrea huffman / Del Rio, TX

I worry that the perceived new vulnerability in hip-hop will become a crutch in the same way the macho image was for the previous crop of rappers [“Hip-Hop Finds Emo,” Nov/Dec 10]. Some of these guys have latched onto the fact that many listeners were sick of what most of the “gangsta rappers” put out, so they’ve gone to the other extreme with the image they’re portraying, whether they truly believe it or not. —rael mason / Liverpool, UK

The Freakonomics article was phenomenal [“The Genius Behind Freakonomics,” Nov/Dec 10]. The stats behind why gang leaders still live with their parents and the difference kids’ names make were crazy and eye-opening. —Cheryl Kapowski / Parma, OH Thanks! We’re not sure we believe the sumo wrestler stats—how can anyone in a diaper be that deceptive?

I really loved the article written by Rob Bell about Advent [“Why We Wait,” Nov/Dec 10]. It put the Advent season into a new perspective for me. It is easy to get stuck into a lifeless routine this time of year because all the traditions and celebrations are the same year in and year out. The article helped me and I’m definitely going to be sharing it with others this Advent season. —Jamie Knopf / Pittsburgh, PA

TWEET THIS Be sure to connect with us/vent at Here is some of your mag scuttlebutt: julioanta: Reading the new @RELEVANTmag & loving it. One of the best issues all year. “The Art of Faith” & “The Next Christians” articles are golden. dbdreamer: Love the new issue. That’s 3x issues featuring stellar Canadian artists. Love that you are repping the North. #canuckpride nateirvine: Just read a great article by @cameronstrang in the newest issue of @RELEVANTmag called “The Price Of Vision.” Embrace the process ... cartermoss: Just read a great article in @RELEVANTmag about the new documentary based on the book Freakonomics. Fascinating. Makes me want to see it! idagurl: @RELEVANTmag holds so much influence on my music playlist and my reading list. And more importantly, it helps nourish my soul. I love them. erikkoliser: Read @RELEVANTmag article saying @kanyewest @drakkardnoir & Kid Cudi are emos under hip-hop disguise. Agreed & IMO better than other (c)rap. doublejbydesign: Thank you, @RELEVANTmag, for your article on “The Art of Faith.” Fujimura creates beauty with deeply traditional style. I want one on my wall! not0fthisworld: Bought the new @RELEVANTmag today, read @jonathanforeman’s article and loved it. If he writes a book I’ll buy ten copies.


a bimontHly look at life, Faith & culture

New Survey: All Our Spiritual Dialogue Isn’t Doing Much We may be talking more and more, but nothing is really changing


Among those who did report change, only one third said they’d experienced an increase in religious commitment and practice. Sixteen percent said they’ve moved away from Christianity, and 8 percent said their religious activity has decreased. The primary reason? The clergy sexual abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church. So while it may feel like people are talking more than ever, so little reported effect raises questions about the quality of those conversations. “No one wants to be stuck in their faith journeys,“ Kinnaman says. “But the vast majority of Americans are surprisingly inflexible. We need better methods of trying to go outside our standard frames of reference. This might be travel to learn about another culture. This might include making friends with someone outside our comfort zone. It may be having a conversation with an older person or someone who is out of the ordinary for us. It could be reading books or resources. We need to be willing to be stretched and see lifelong learning as part of our calling as Christ-followers.”

GOOD & BAD changes According to the survey conducted by Barna Group, here’s how the people who reported any change said they did so: • 14% said they had increased their commitment to the Christian faith • 12% cited an increase in their religious activity • 9% said their commitment to God had grown • 16% said they had moved away from Christianity • 11% said their feelings about or perceptions toward churches had deteriorated • 8% admitted to decreasing their religious activity • 8% claimed to have changed churches or denominations

Technology has gone crazy in the past decade and with it our ability to communicate. The amount of public dialogue on a variety of issues—including belief and religion—has skyrocketed. So how is all this communication affecting people’s lives? Apparently, not much. According to a 2010 survey by Barna Group, all that discussion and debate hasn’t really changed what people believe. Only 7 percent of those surveyed admitted to any change in their religious beliefs, practices or preferences during the past five years. Adults younger than 26 are most likely to report change (13 percent). In contrast, adults over the age of 65 are least likely (3 percent). “The ages of 18 to 29 are the crossroads,” says David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group. “The time in life when people—if they are going to do it—are most likely to rethink their spirituality. Though people often become more spiritually minded as they get older, they don’t change very much in terms of spirituality. They tend to stay committed to faith perspectives that have served them for decades.”












Will Ferrell Fights Cancer with a Cup

Will Ferrell is teaming up with 7-Eleven and their “Cup for a Cause” program, which has celebrities design coffee cups for the convenience store to help a charity. 7-Eleven donates $250,000 and a portion of the cup’s profits. Ferrell’s cup (a hand-drawn snowman) is in stores now. Here are some other Cups for a Cause participants: Snoop Dogg Though known for explicit lyrics, Snoop also coaches pee-wee football. His cup benefitted the Snoop Youth Football League. John Cena The wrestler/actor’s cup helped raise funds for the Make-a-Wish Foundation. Since 2004, he has granted more than 150 wishes.

Jennifer Hudson The American Idol contestant supported the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

The Plight of Christians in Iraq Wave of violence threatens Iraqi believers Remember the story of Jonah and the whale (or big fish)? Jonah was supposed to go to the city of Nineveh, which God saved after they repented. What’s not usually talked about is that Nineveh was in modern-day Iraq. In fact, Nineveh was just the beginning of a history of Christianity in Iraq. Nineveh was the capital of Assyria, whose people adopted Christianity in the first century A.D. Since then, there has been a constant population of Iraqi Christians, most of them in an Eastern branch of the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church. According to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, there were around 1.4 million Christians living in Iraq before the Iraq War started in 2003. Since then, the Christian population has dwindled to around 500,000 and continues to get smaller as a new surge of violence against the Christian community threatens to stomp it out completely. In late October, an extremist group

with ties to Al-Qaeda stormed a cathedral in Baghdad, leading to the death of 37 congregants and seven security force members. Attacks have spread into other parts of Iraq, including the Nineveh province in northern Iraq. Sectarian violence has been a significant problem since the Iraq War began. Where Christians were once mostly accepted in Iraq, they are now often seen as having Western ties and as a general threat to Islam, the overwhelming majority religion in Iraq. So what can you do? Pray for the Christians in Iraq. Stay up to date on news of persecution by checking out or Voice of the Martyrs. Contact your representatives in Congress to express your concern and let them know true democracy allows for the full expression of any faith. Such efforts will show our Iraqi brothers and sisters they are not alone and that we are working on their behalf, even in the midst of persecution.

Eye in the Back of His head Never do anything embarrassing behind him


A photography professor at NYU is surgically implanting a camera into the back of his head that will take a photograph every minute for a year. The images will be sent to an art museum in Qatar, creating an installation called The 3rd I. The project is supposed to be a commentary on time and memory, but it seems like a weird excuse for a teacher to know what’s happening behind his back.



Integrity Worship Institute’s online curriculum provides the education you need to become the leader God has called you to be—without leaving the place He has called you to serve.




Eating Locally Year-Round

It’s not as hard as you think Being a locavore can be a hassle during the colder months. Experiment with recipes if some of your favorite ingredients are in short supply. A winter market should still have potatoes, squash, broccoli, bananas, passion fruit, artichokes and other seasonal fruits and vegetables. Consider joining a CSA (communitysupported agriculture) program and receive a box of seasonal produce, dairy, eggs or meat from local farms each week. Finally, find nearby restaurants using locally grown items on

How to Beat the Winter Doldrums

Put on your ChapStick and get ready to explore the great indoors

The care and keeping of resolutions





It can be tempting to retreat from the cold and complain to your Twitter followers from the sofa. Instead, consider the talents you always wished you’d cultivated, and enroll in a class for an exclusively indoor activity. Rather than being a shut-in, you could become an amateur painter, raw food chef, tap dancer, pianist, scrapbooker or rock-climber. Did you get a new gadget, cookbook or tool for Christmas? Plan to conquer it by spring.

It might seem cliché, but get creative. Strip the beds and couches, and construct a massive living room fort. Maybe break out glow-in-thedark stars and call it an indoor drive-in. Then, pick a collection of films and work through them chronologically: Alfred Hitchcock classics. Old Disney cartoons. The Ernest P. Worrell series. After you’ve made your selection, invite some friends to bring snacks and sleeping bags and claim a portion of your living room floor.





OK, not literally. But look for unique opportunities to create community during the winter months. Deliver sweaters, hot meals or drinks to the homeless. Plan a rotational dinner schedule with your neighbors and meet at each other’s houses once a week. Make plans for a game night with that new co-worker you’ve yet to bond with. Host a post-holiday family gathering that has absolutely nothing to do with presents or calendars.

Come July, you know you’re going to be missing the wintry white scenery, the chilly temperatures, the chapped knuckles. Well, maybe you won’t. But you might as well revel in the season while you can. Bundle up in your favorite coat you won’t be able to wear in two months. Drink coffee on the porch. Go for a (brisk) walk. Just a half-hour a day outside could revitalize you—and make being stuck indoors seem more inviting.

Everybody is good at making resolutions. Unfortunately, it’s the keeping of resolutions that actually counts—and that’s where most of us have difficulty. Here are a few tips to make sure your good intentions stick around through the new year. Choose a date in June to give yourself a midyear review and track the progress you’ve made on your resolutions. Don’t just set goals; set schedules. Write up your workout routine, make appointments with that shelter you want to volunteer at or arrange weekly phone calls with people you want to keep in touch with more. It might be intimidating, but publicize your resolutions. Post them on a blog. Tell your friends. Seek accountability. Make well-rounded resolutions. Find areas for improvement in your physical, spiritual, professional, personal and emotional life, even if it’s just something minor.




Big Organizations Experience Huge Drop in Donations

Misc The U.N.’s environmental chief says climate change is threatening so many species that the world’s extinction rate could reach the level attained when dinosaurs went extinct. They estimate the current extinction rate is 100 to 1,000 times the average ...

For the past two decades, The Chronicle of Philanthropy has released an annual report of the top 400 organizations that raise the most from private sources. The 2010 report found that donations dropped 11 percent at the nation’s biggest nonprofits in 2009—nearly four times as great as the previous largest annual decrease: 2.8 percent in 2001. Here’s how the charities that raised the most fared in 2009:

Charities whose donations increased over the previous year:

1 2 3 4

AmeriCares Foundation 18.1% Catholic Charities USA 5.2% World Vision 4.5% Feed the Children 1.2%

Charities whose donations decreased over the previous year:

5 6 7 8 9 10

Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund 40.3% Food for the Poor 27% The Y 17.2% American Cancer Society 11% Salvation Army 8.4% United Way Worldwide 4.5%

Portugal Plans a “Smart City” Though cities only make up 2 percent of the world’s land, they use 75 percent of the earth’s natural resources. But what if the energy used and waste produced in a city could be recycled into more energy? Living PlanIT is partnering with Microsoft and Cisco to make this “smart city” a reality in Paredes, Portugal. Dubbed “PlanIT Valley,” plans for the city are based on the systems in a living organism: a “brain” to control everything from its water use to energy consumption, “kidneys” that will collect and reuse rainwater from “green roofs,” and a “stomach”—dishwasher-sized digesters in homes will process food and human waste to create biofuel, which can be burned to generate electricity. While other eco-friendly cities are in the works, PlanIT Valley could be the first fully built—it’s scheduled to be completed by 2015—and residents could start moving in as early as next year. Smart phones, Smart cars, now a smart city—yet we still don’t have hoverboards. Now the inventors of the world are just rubbing it in our faces.

A judge in the Ontario Superior Court has ruled that pimping, soliciting and running a brothel should not be made illegal. The judge called on Canadian parliament to regulate the sex trade rather than banning it. Supporters of the ban say the ruling could make Canada a haven for human traffickers ...

Facebook Charity app wins investors


Causes, a Facebook app where users can donate to various charities, recently raised $9 million to help expand its fundraising efforts. As part of the expansion, they have established their own website,, and are selling Causes gift cards in Safeway and Vons supermarkets in California. Former Facebook President Sean Parker co-founded the company—which has raised more than $16 million in financing—three years ago.


ONLY 14 $


SUBSCRIBE AT RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM/MUSIC Subscribers will receive one album upon payment for subscription. The three subsequent albums will be made available to subscribers within the calendar year of their subscription.



Flavor of the Bi-Month Seven things to make the beginning of 2011 memorable: [BL ACK HIS TORY MONTH]


[ do these things ]

Observe Black History Month by Reading African-American Literature February is Black History Month. This year, try to observe it in a slightly different way by intentionally reading some of the most moving African-American literature. Some good places to start: Beloved by Toni Morrison, The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, Strength to Love by Martin Luther King Jr., Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. DuBois and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou.


PHOTO: Kevin McCoy


The Aliens, Faith Questions and Weird Hair of V


Attend MLK Day Events in D.C. Each January, there are multiple observances and celebrations during Martin Luther King Jr. weekend (this year, it’s Jan. 14-17). Check out concerts in various places around Washington, D.C., reflections on the civil rights movement and a closing service at the National Cathedral remembering King’s life.

attend a powerful conference The month of January is pretty much packed with great conferences to take in. The International House of Prayer’s onething is Dec. 28-31 (not quite January) in Kansas City, and Passion 2011 is in Atlanta Jan. 1-4. Meanwhile, Campus Crusade is holding conferences all over the country in January. Check out to see if any are in your area. Conferences like these are a powerful way to experience and see firsthand what God is doing in our generation.

a why are Christian movies so bad? Someone finally asked the question we’ve all been thinking. It’s not just a condemnation, though; it’s a call to embrace the arts. Go to and join the conversation.

Help us to put a stop to malaria


Do the Jesus Lean The dance sensation that will sweep the Christian nation. The Soulja Boy was so 2007.


get creative for valentine’s day This year, go all out with your Valentine’s Day card. Address, stamp and seal it like always. But this time, put the addressed envelope inside a larger envelope and send the whole shebang to: Postmaster Valentine Re-mailing 446 E. 29th St. Loveland, CO 80538 The post office in the romantically named Colorado town will then remove your addressed envelope from the larger one and stamp your valentine with a love poem before sending it on. It’s kinda cheesy and takes some work ... but we guarantee your significant other will appreciate the gesture.

We’re partnering with World Vision’s ACT:S to End Malaria to stop malaria by 2015. Check out our video: You’ll be amazed at how many people are affected by malaria ... and how possible it is to put a stop to it.

Watch Bowl Games at your leisure One of the more annoying parts of college bowl season is the need to be planted in front of a TV with ESPN and all the networks for hours on end. Well, this year, free your body from the sofa and get online. Most of ESPN’s games will be streaming for free online at (sorry if your cable operator doesn’t carry it) and most of the networks are finally realizing what the Internet is. This year, you can watch whenever you want and wherever you want. As long as you’ve got Wi-Fi, of course.

What do aliens, conspiracy, religious themes and Elizabeth Mitchell have in common? You might say “Lost.” But this year, the sci-fi-with-some-twists show returns for its second season. The aliens are clearly bad, but it’s the characters, themes of good and evil, the manipulation of the media and what humanity really is that you’ll want to return to.

shameless plugs of the bi-month




[ make a mi x tape , srsly ]


RELEVANT’S SAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY MIX It’s Valentine’s Day. And you need to make a mix for your significant other (if you don’t think you do, you’re wrong). Fortunately, we’ve got you covered. Just try to make sure your boyfriend/ girlfriend/fiancé(e)/spouse doesn’t see this before Feb. 14. Visit RELEVANTmagazine. com/ValentinesMix to get all 15 tracks on iTunes. God Only Knows (1996 Digital Remaster) | The Beach Boys The Gambler | fun. Falling Slowly | The Swell Season When She’s Near | Fiction Family

The Saint Behind the Valentine

(St.) Valentine’s Day is almost here. But who was the person this Hallmark cash cow is named after?


undergoing persecutions under Emperor Claudius II (who was emperor during a long stretch where Christianity was illegal and emperor worship was commanded). He was arrested and imprisoned. According to legend, Claudius II liked Valentine ... until Valentine tried to convert him. Then it was off with Valentine’s head (literally). So what does that have to do with nude, arrow-wielding cherubs

My Girls | Animal Collective I Love You (ft. Chris Lee) | Lecrae Hold Time | M. Ward Gutter | Paper Route and awkward love notes? Well, that’s where the legend part really becomes legend. Apparently, on the eve of his execution, he left a farewell note for his jailer’s daughter and signed it, “From your Valentine.” And, because of his role as marriage-performer, he was made patron saint of happy marriages and romantic love. Apart from all of the nonsense the holiday has come to summarize, St. Valentine’s story does serve as an example of a radical commitment to Christ. And it’s a powerful testament to the sacred covenant Christian marriage can be—if Valentine really died for performing weddings, it seems appropriate that the day would, in the end, remember him.

Etcetera Whatever | Over the Rhine Next to Me | Sleeping at Last Home | She & Him Candlelight | Relient K Reservations | Wilco I Loves You, Porgy | Nina Simone

RELEVANT’s Sappy Love Mix Don’t know what this thing is? Check out page 6 for instructions, and then listen to our Valentine’s Day Mix.

First things first: No one is totally sure which Valentine is the “real” saint. There were several martyrs who all died around the same time and all claim the day of Feb. 14 as their day of observance. Here’s what we do know: There was definitely a St. Valentine. And he was probably a priest of some sort in the ancient church in Rome. According to most sources, he performed weddings and helped Christians who were

When I Go | Slow Club




Davis Guggenheim is not Superman By josh loveless However, the acclaimed documentarian is hoping he can recruit a few (figurative) superheroes to help him save America’s public school systems. After tackling climate change in his Oscar-winning documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, Guggenheim has turned his sights on what he believes to be America’s most fundamental crisis: an eroded and dysfunctional public education. From an inability to fire bad teachers, to schools routinely churning out illiterate students, to too short of school days, Guggenheim’s new documentary, Waiting for Superman, explores various ills inherent in today’s schools. Although it can be overwhelming, he says there is hope. The film and its website ( offer ways to get involved, including mentoring, writing letters and becoming a teacher. Here, he talks private vs. public, offering hope and why he makes movies that matter.

What was your education like as a child, and how did it affect the movie? I went to private school. I remember when I was 5, asking my mom why I take the school bus from Washington, D.C., across the Potomac River, 45 minutes into Virginia to go to school. And she said, “Because the schools in Washington, D.C., are broken.” Forty years later they’re still broken.

Davis Guggenheim

Why this topic? Why now? One of the things we talked about in this movie is the sense of time. Every school year, a new generation. Every year, 1.2 million kids dropping out. The sense of failing kids and failing them over time weighed very heavily on us when we told the story.

Students in high-poverty schools are twice as likely as those in affluent schools to have an unqualified teacher.

How has the value and quality of education deteriorated over the years? My father taught me that in America, if you worked hard and you went to school, you could have a chance. Even if you were born in a different country, didn’t speak the language and your parents were poor and you were born on the wrong side of the tracks—it’s myth, but a myth is something that can also be true, and a lot of great Americans came up through that. That’s not true as much anymore. In fact, it’s eroded for a while.

[ the facts ]

Boys and Girls in America


NATION • 68% of 4th-graders scored below a proficient reading level in 2009. • 2,000 schools are “dropout factories,” where 40% of students quit during high school. • Among 30 developed countries, U.S. schools rank 25th in math and 21st in science.

Who are the villains here? Basically we said, “If we’re going to fix schools for our kids, we have to be tough on all the adults.” So I start with myself—people who take their kids out of the system and just buy their way through a good education. ... There’s a system, the political system where funding goes through all those backwards ways, and then there’s the unions. Why do you feel like you have to make movies that matter? I’m driven by making a great movie, but I also want this movie to make a difference, and to make better schools, and to shake people out of their complacency. And if that happens, that’s better than watching the box office for an action movie that anyone else could have directed. It’s what’s so exciting about it, what keeps me up every night— what if I can make a movie that will actually fix this thing or help fix this thing?

Neighborhood • Literacy is the number-one predictor of a child’s ability to succeed in school. • College graduates out-earn high school graduates by 73%. • Effective teachers and principals account for nearly 60% of a student’s ability to succeed.

Anthony, a fifth-grader in Washington, D.C. (Courtesy of Waiting for Superman.)

ine h R

e Jeff Tweedy

Th Over J

s Ratatat r a of Clay

Lupe Fiasco

You care about

K'Naan Sigur Rós Steve Gift of Gab n a

Calvin College

The Weepies

Derek WExplosions in the Sky ebb David Bazan




J Foreman


Joanna Newsom Anberlin on Grizzly Be

ian Gillelch W



Death Cab for Cu ti

! os sin pe am sC Lo

t o o f h c t i o Anathall Sw My




dFleet n o m Foxes a i D t tes h g i Br




Andrew Bir Emmylou d Harris

Welcome Wagon zález

on José G

ne Claibor

Patty Gr iffin


The Mountain Goats

The Decemberists

Broken Social Scene ine

Iron and W

e n a

Join the conversation

Cornel West

nd Boys of Alabama i l B e Th





So do We...

s n


Pop Culture.

Matt Wertz 3201 Burton SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49546 (616) 526-6106 or 1-800-688-0122

Register for the Festival of Faith and Music today.


CAN OFFENSIVE ART BE CHRISTIAN? by dan haseltine I recently began a conversation about words, using Twitter as my debate floor. What began as a few questions about language evolved into why Christians are so easily offended and what it means to be “set apart.” The catalyst for the debate was a song by Insane Clown Posse. Earlier this year, they proclaimed their allegiance to God and Jesus in a song called “Miracles,” which included lyrics like, F***ing magnets, how do they work? The knee-jerk reaction from most of the faith community was to simply dismiss ICP as absurd. However, in the messy realm of thoughtful critique, I was compelled to look more closely. The mere fact that something so crass and unabashedly twisted was being corralled under the banner of Christian evangelism had me thinking. It was almost as if God was saying: “You think you know me? You think you understand how far I will go to pursue my people? You think you know who I can and cannot use or what language I will or won’t redeem? … Check this out!” For me, the issue was less about the artistic integrity of Insane Clown Posse. It was truly an issue of offensiveness—and it made me pose a few questions to the Twitterverse. Questions like: Can a well-placed expletive positively stir the soul? If something is deemed inappropriate for children, should it not be sold through “Christian” distribution channels? Can Christian art impact us positively through


things that offend us? Is the act of “offending” a counter-Gospel act? The ICP dilemma had echoes of Andres Serrano’s controversial Piss Christ, a photograph of a crucifix submerged in urine, or the film adaptation of Nikos Kazantzakis’

We have come so far from reflecting the rebel Jesus in our art and cultural engagement that we do not recognize Him when He surfaces. I still wrestle with the fact that Jesus hung out with prostitutes not simply to tell them what they were doing wrong, but to love them where they were. He was in the world, and His agenda was to love. He was not looking for reasons to be offended. He was not looking for reasons to stay home, safely out of harm’s way. We weren’t set apart in order to live apart. We were called God’s own so we could confidently go into the world. If ever there was an arrogance perpetuated in the Church, our art is to blame. Our art describes the world where we live. We don’t spend enough time with prostitutes and outlaws, drunks and addicts. We don’t write about lust and fear and greed and obesity and broken things. We relegate our art to the way we wish the world should be and not how the world actually is. We are only offended because we forget the kinds of depravity we could reach if not for God’s grace. Perhaps we should rethink the boundaries we have established for artistic expressions of Gospel truth. We need to recognize the majority of artists do not create simply to offend. Whether we like it or not, Jesus has made room for Insane Clown Posse. If an artist illuminates truth, it is God’s truth whether the conduit artist is a born-again Christian or not. Jesus has made room for art containing sexuality to reflect God’s glory. He has made room for artistic expressions containing abrasive language to reflect God’s glory.

are we willing to step beyond fear and engage culture where it exists? novel The Last Temptation, which presented a scenario where Jesus decides to give in to the temptations of the world and live a fully human life. The Church responded to both like stones hitting the hornet’s nest, rather than artistic expressions asking significant questions or offering a shocking, although thoughtful, perspective on God. It isn’t hard to offend people in the Church. When the band Vigilantes of Love released a song about sex called “Love Cocoon,” Christians were offended and the record was pulled from store shelves. I remember watching picketers outside of Amy Grant concerts when she became a pop star. The Christian skin seems to be ever thinning. As long as Christians interpret the longstanding biblical ideas of being “set apart” or “in the world but not of it” as good reasons to take a defensive stance against culture and the outside world, the offenses will pile up.

The Gospel I know was not written wholly for children and I cannot, for a second, think it is not God’s truth because some expressions of it are not appropriate for my 7-year-old. Are we willing to step beyond fear and engage culture where it exists, recognizing art is born out of stories happening around us? They are stories that will end in redemption because God said they would. They may show up in our view at the very beginning of the redemptive process, and they may be messy and unrefined, but they are honest. The only thing that should offend us is art that lies.

DAN HASELTINE is the lead singer and songwriter for Jars of Clay. You can follow him on Twitter @scribblepotemus.

Your neighbor is enslaved in California. She is sick in the Congo. He is an orphan in Cambodia. Do you know your neighbor? February 11 +12, 2011, the nation’s leading voices on justice will be in Bend, Oregon.

Adam Hochschild

Lynne Hybels

Shane Claiborne

Mike Yankoski

Nicholas Wolterstorff

Author, King Leopold’s Ghost

Author, Nice Girls Don’t Change the World

Author, Jesus for President

Author, Zealous Love: A Practical Guide to Social Justice

Author, Justice: Rights and Wrongs

RegisteR Now Visit to register, find out about group rates, or become a sponsor.

Brought to you by:

Partners: International Justice Mission Living Water Int’l Kiva Medical Teams Int’l Not For Sale

Pura Vida Habitat for Humanity India Partners and many more…


Resurrecting liturgy by shane claiborne and jonathan wilson-hartgrove It has been said we should live with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other. We have to connect our faith to the world we live in, not just use it as a ticket into heaven or an excuse to ignore the hells around us. We admire folks like Mother Teresa and Dorothy Day because they lived and proclaimed a faith that makes sense of our whole lives. But we don’t often stop to ask, “What kind of community and daily life made people like that possible in this world?” In our own attempts to integrate action and contemplation, faith and practice, we found our way into new monastic communities. Through works of mercy on our streets and peacemaking in conflict zones around the world, our communities have been known for their activism. But our communities have also learned action alone can become hollow and depressing. We set out to change the world … and then we realized we couldn’t even change ourselves. Our passion for justice has brought us face to face not only with the world’s brokenness, but with our own limitations. It is within this tension that we have relearned what it means to pray. So many of us are used to the kind of prayer where we tell God things He already knows, as if Jesus needs a reminder kids are dying in Sudan. But praying at the limit of our own ability has sent us searching for resources ancient and new that turn prayer into something like a school


for our souls. The ancient practice of liturgy has helped us see how God is remaking us into a people who can become the answer to the prayers the Spirit is praying through us. We know this isn’t a lot of people’s experience with liturgical prayer. Saying prayers that were written hundreds of years ago can feel dry and empty when an ancient form is divorced from the living tradition.

abused power and used religion to exclude and abuse. But there’s also a lot to celebrate. Some of the most compelling movements in the world have grown out of people whose whole life became a prayer for God’s Kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. That story has captivated our hearts and helped our communities fall in love with liturgy. A lot of folks say prayer books and hymnals are a dying breed, gathering dust on the backs of pews and sitting on the lonely shelves of the religion section of used bookstores. But praying together will never grow old. We don’t move forward by leaving the past behind, but by mining our tradition’s wisdom for gifts that speak to us today. Liturgy isn’t dead. In fact, we’ve seen it raising communities to new life. These are exciting times. Which isn’t to say these are easy times. The culture of death we see clearly in the gang violence on our streets and in the perpetual war that has ravaged homes in Iraq is just as real, though often harder to see, in the selfcenteredness of our shopping malls and the loneliness of our workspaces. As we pray and sing together, may we learn to see ourselves as part of a holy counterculture, a peculiar people who are pursuing different values than those of the empire around us. We often think of liturgical prayer as exercise for our souls. It doesn’t always feel good, but it stretches and strengthens us, getting rid of spiritual flab we’ve built up by consuming only spiritual food we like. But it’s not just about cutting flab; we enter into this discipline so we can focus our bodies and souls on joining God’s Kingdom work in the world. We pray so we can learn to work better, and we work so we can know how to pray better.

Our communities have learned Action alone can become hollow and depressing. But “liturgy” literally means “the work of the people,” and the people of God have been sustained through the centuries by rhythms and practices that help us remember our story, remember our saints and sing the eternal song that echoes around God’s throne. This practice reminds us we are part of one Body. The incredible unity of liturgical prayer is that it not only joins us with Christians around the world as we pass the baton of morning and evening prayer from one time zone to the next, but it also connects us to saints throughout the centuries who’ve prayed the same prayers and sang the same songs as they joined God’s movement for justice and peace. When we look back at our history, the Church has a lot to confess. We’ve often

Liturgy is more than words we say every day—it’s a way of life. We’re glad to be caught up in this life with friends around the world and generations before us. May we continue to become the Church we dream of … and may we continue to live the revolution of Christ.

Shane claiborne and jonathan wilsonhartgrove are co-compilers of Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals (Zondervan). Learn more about their liturgy project at

To hear more emerging artists, check out The Drop at



reen River Ordinance is a prohibition of door-to-door solicitation without resident approval. However, the band of the same name had no trouble turning to their fans when they needed some money this past fall. After the most successful year in the Texan rock group’s 10-year run, and with several of their singles receiving attention on prime-time television, GRO parted ways with major label Capitol Records. “Us leaving Capitol was a definite risk and something that was very thought-out,” says lead singer Josh Jenkins. “We prayed a lot about it, and it was scary for us. But we definitely felt it was the right thing to do.” Independent once more, the five members found themselves at the mercy of their fans. The band

launched a campaign to tell listeners about their new direction and to raise money for their next album. The goal was to raise $15,000 in 30 days; it only took two. “We were humbled that our initial goal was met that quick. We weren’t expecting it,” Jenkins says. “But we saw quickly that it was far beyond what we expected. You empower people to be a part of something, and they just stepped up to the plate.” GRO also matches the generosity of their fans by using another Internet campaign to garner support for their favorite charities. When singles are purchased on, the proceeds benefit five featured organizations. Jenkins says it’s all about involving fans in what they’re passionate about and using their music as a platform for greater issues.

“How can we do what we’re doing better? Not just on a performance level, not just on a music level, but on a people level. How can we engage our fans better and make them feel a part of this more than they did last time?” Jenkins says these have been the recurring questions of GRO’s career, and they have prepared them for a different journey. “I would say the worth of our band will be what we’ve done with the music to affect people and affect the world,” Jenkins says. “That’s what we’re going to look back on and say: ‘OK, this is purposeful. There was worth in this.’ Not making a quick dollar or having a number-one song, as much as we want it. Our goal and what we strive for is for this to be something more than ourselves.” —ALYCE GILLIGAN


For Fans of:

needtobreathe, The Script

Scan This:

Listen Here Don’t know what this thing is? Check out page 6 for instructions. featured artist


eric ryan anderson





ecrae may be one of Christian hip-hop’s most vocal and visible rappers, but the beginnings of his story sound like a stereotype. “I didn’t have a father figure growing up, I don’t know who my biological father is, I idolized gangs, so on and so forth,” he says. “[But] the end of my story isn’t that I pulled myself up on my own boot straps, which is a lot of people’s stories, or that it’s just terrible for me. The end of my story is much different, and I try to invite people in that world.” Those differences and similarities make Lecrae uniquely able to reach hip-hop culture. “If there was ever going to be somebody who was going to be a missionary in [hip-hop] culture, it would be somebody who knows it,” he says. “I’m indigenous to it. I think it’s effective because that’s

the way God designed it. Ultimately, Jesus came to earth as a human, as a Jewish man, speaks the Jewish language and impacts Jewish people, which leads us to today.” Understanding that culture means Lecrae pays attention to multiple hip-hop scenes and listens to the biggest names in mainstream hip-hop—even those that some of his fans might find too explicit. “It’s definitely a freedom issue if you’re a Christian,” he says. “The way I look at it is, if you’re an engineer, you’re not only studying Christian engineering. You’re studying the best engineers possible so you can be adept and approach your craft well, and I think of it the same way.” Lecrae credits his appreciation of mainstream hip-hop for his ability to reach rap culture. “There are a lot

of stories being told, there is a lot of stuff being communicated in those songs,” he says. “If I’m listening to that, I’m hearing people’s worldview, I’m hearing their outlook on life and I’m able to talk to those issues and really understand them. I think a lot of people, specifically Christians, can be condescending and speak in a patronizing way without understanding where people are coming from. “To this day, I’m still passionate about creating music that is authentically hip-hop, but is [also] authentically Christian; we want people to walk away hearing a Christian worldview in the music.” Lecrae may have come from a tough background, but his different ending is changing lives. —Ryan Hamm


For Fans of: T.I., .UGK, Trip Lee

Scan This:

Listen Here Don’t know what this thing is? Check out page 6 for instructions. featured artist


zach wolfe



hile some artists have lengthy stories about their winding paths to success, Bradley Hathaway has a simple explanation: “It just happened.” How did he get into poetry? “It just happened,” Hathaway says. He was driving an Arizona highway when the verses came to him. Suddenly, he was a noted spoken word poet, known for flinging his hair and spitting into microphones about the macho “hardcore” kids who were his primary fan base. So why did he switch to music? “It just happened.” A song surfaced as he sat on a sidewalk in Amsterdam, “and it never really went back.” This passion for melody quickly eclipsed his penchant for poetry, and Hathaway is now a folk artist with three albums to his name.

It may seem Hathaway’s “que sera” mentality would suit his success, but he admits it can get a bit tiring. “I wanted to be a normal person again, have a normal life, drive the same roads, go to the same grocery store, eat the same food, mow the same grass,” Hathaway explains. So he traded tour buses for the halls of academia. The English student now spends his afternoons doing homework outside, exploring his newfound love of American literature. “This is the time in the desert, the time in the wilderness, to be renewed and then go at it again,” Hathaway says. “The whole idea was to learn and study the most enduring stories ever written, and hopefully take some of that and create really good art.” Hathaway’s lyrical and musical content have already evolved, with

his new four-song EP, A Thousand Angry Panthers, delving into issues of abuse, death and pain. “If I put out an album that’s completely black, I think that’s OK because sometimes we just feel completely black, and dark, and dirty and shameful. I just want to capture the moment.” Still, a message of grace emerges in the vivid imagery of Hathaway’s lyrics. “The redemptive elements are in my heart primarily because I believe in redemption,” he says. “I am who I am, and my art is going to reflect that. I’m not really good at being fake. You can take it or leave it. It’s not intentional. It’s not something I’m setting out to do.” It just happened. —ALYCE GILLIGAN


For Fans of:

Conor Oberst, Josh Garrels

Scan This:

Listen Here Don’t know what this thing is? Check out page 6 for instructions. featured artist


amjad faur

DOwnLOa Our free D eP at OceansEdg m/ freeDown load

Ocean’s Edge School is an intensive 10-month program located on-site at Calvary Chapel, Fort Lauderdale providing relevant training and discipleship for the next-generation of Christian musicians and worship leaders.

R E - I M A G I





H E A V en {

turns out it’s not really about halos and clouds, after all

BY jeff cook




hen I was young, I threw a rock through the window of an old car in my alley. The glass broke easily, and the hole remained for a week or so until it was closed with a black trash bag. The owner confronted me about the window (I was the kid next door and the most likely rockthrower), but I didn’t own up and I wasn’t able to fix the damage. A few months later I escaped the knowing eyes of our neighbor. My family moved across town, and my last memory of my childhood home was driving away and looking at the Buick with the missing window. Recently, a photographer friend of mine did an art show featuring some broken items transformed. The first picture was of a bus with a shattered windshield, and the picture brought me back to that alley and my neighbor’s Buick. Looking at the picture, feelings of guilt from my past flared up for me, and then the slide changed. The new photograph was not of a bus with a brand new windshield like I expected. Instead, the shot was of all the broken glass carefully collected, dyed and reassembled in an elaborate mosaic. The piece was beautiful, far more impressive than a replaced windshield. Someone had removed all those shards of glass in turn and envisioned a future for them all.

Escape vs. Repair Often when we think of heaven, what comes to mind is escape. According to Medieval art and modern cartoons, “heaven” is about leaving. Heaven is about getting as far away from what we and others have broken as possible. Perhaps we think this world is too base, painful and irreparably shattered to fix, so our only hope is to leave. As such, “salvation” isn’t about a new life, a transformed character or a brilliant new experience of God. Salvation is about departure. Salvation is about “going to heaven,” being rescued from this dysfunctional world and entering a new home that is trash bag-free. There’s nothing wrong with not wanting to suffer anymore, or wanting to be with God (which are some of the things that come to my mind when thinking of heaven). But when Jesus taught about heaven, He never spoke of it as a distant land of clouds, bath robes and harp music waiting for the souls of the dead (which sounds a bit more like hell to me). Instead, Jesus spoke of “the kingdom of heaven.” It is arguably His favorite topic. Jesus refers to this

kingdom more than 100 times—more than He speaks of love, peace and money combined. Apparently, the “kingdom” aspect of heaven was vital to Jesus and His teachings. But notice—kingdoms are power structures. They are an area of authority. As such, when He spoke of heaven, Jesus was emphasizing heaven’s present power and work. When Jesus told stories that began with similes (such as, the kingdom of heaven is like a man sowing seed in a barren field), He was showing His culture what it looked like when heaven was in control. This was what Jesus wanted His followers to know about heaven. For Jesus, heaven was primarily about God’s will being done on earth. We don’t need to leave earth, because heaven is coming here. Because “God so loved the world that he

that they loved the wilderness, even though it wasn’t easy to create their own shelters, gather and grow their own food, suffer through sicknesses and protect themselves from insects and storms. After many weeks, the man arrived to help the lost group, and he brought a dozen trucks of supplies and construction gear. “Haven’t you come to save us?” asked the lost people. “Of course,” the man said. And with that he set to work bringing to completion what the group had already begun. He took the shelters they had begun and finished them. He took their awkward gardens and enhanced them. He completed the spaces they had made to escape the bugs and storms. He brought order to it

WHEN JESUS TAUGHT ABOUT HEAVEN, HE NEVER SPOKE OF IT AS DISTANT CLOUDS, BATH ROBES AND HARP MUSIC WAITING FOR THE SOULS OF THE DEAD. gave his one and only Son,” it makes sense that the Son’s highest concern would be repairing the world His Father loves—saturating it with the life of heaven (John 3:16, NIV). And this is precisely what Jesus did. Notice His priorities: Jesus healed the sick, the paralyzed and those whose hands didn’t work as they should. He made the deaf hear, the mute speak and the blind see. Jesus cured diseases like leprosy and hemorrhaging that kept some ostracized from their families. He repaired works of violence and cast away powers that left some in mental slavery. In His most dramatic signs, Jesus fed the starving masses, quieted storms, raised two children and an old man to life days after they had died, and of course the cross itself is Christ’s defeat of sin and death—the fruit of which is showcased in the events of Easter morning. Each of these miracles are acts of repair. Jesus did not scrap the old and replace it with something else. God’s creation had gone wrong, and Jesus did not leave it covered with a black trash bag somewhere. Instead, Jesus began to work, collecting all the shattered pieces He saw and setting them in a new, brilliant order.

Now and Not Yet There was once a group of friends who got lost in a forest. Realizing they were lost, one pulled out his cell phone and called a man of skills to come and save them. The man said he would come, but it might take him a while to get there. In the meantime, he gave the group a handful of tips for surviving in the wilderness. As the lost group began putting the teachings into practice, they found more and more

all, and the people once stuck in a wilderness, awaiting rescue, knew they were no longer lost. They knew they were home. How do we understand what is happening now in our lives, in our world, and what our future looks like if we’re not trying to escape this earth for another place? Jesus and the rest of the New Testament writers consistently speak in a way that suggests both that heaven—the sphere of God’s reign, presence and repairing power—is already here in a new way and that it is not yet fully here in another. For example, Paul—the writer of most of the Christian Scriptures—expresses this in many of his well-known metaphors. He writes, we experience now “the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry, ‘Abba!’”; yet we await “the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:15, 23, WEB). He wrote, “When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal [now], the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption [then]” (Ephesians 1:13-14, NIV). He ends one of his greatest writings with these images: “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12). Paul is building on the now and not yet language Jesus Himself used. “A time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live” (John 5:25). All of these passages point to a profound truth. Apparently, Jesus started something— and it’s not a new religion. Jesus began the reconstruction of our world—through His


teachings, through His miracles, through His death and resurrection. What is fascinating is that God’s repair of the world was not a shock to Jesus’ audience. In fact, they expected it.

The Age to Come In the Jewish mind, history was split into “the present age” and “the age to come” (Matthew 13:39, 24:3 28:20; Luke 18:30, among others). Consistently, Jesus’ followers, opponents, even the demons who spoke to Him referred to a “present age” in which evil had its say, but they likewise spoke of “the age to come” in which God would destroy evil and death. The former is something we can see; it is clear that sin and death have real power. But the Jewish culture held out hope that a new day was coming in which God would eliminate evil from His world.

You and I have not yet arrived. We are not yet perfect. We are always in transit. Our lives are a work of tension—the tension between a work “begun” and a work “complete.” Jesus certainly thought there would be a coming transformation. At one point, when picturing for His followers the transition from the present age into the age to come, Jesus spoke of the “renewal of all things” (Matthew 19:28). The phrase is actually a single Greek word, palingenesia. Palin means “second” or “repeated,” and genesia is literally the word “birthday.” But in Jesus’ culture, as in our own, “Genesis” referred to the creation event. Apparently, Jesus believed God would decisively act at the end of the present age, to eliminate evil and launch a new creation. Put the images Jesus used together: God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven, the resurrection of the dead, parables like those of a sower entering a neglected field (read: the world) and spreading seeds that grew into an all-consuming harvest, blessings on the poor in spirit, the mourning, the meek, miracles repairing the sick and casting away evil, even more so miracles in which God’s Son provided both bread, fish and new wine to those in need here. All of these images, and many more, picture heaven suddenly born and transforming this earth, right now. This was the future Jesus and His culture expected—and it’s all about repair. Jesus’ acts were signs not that it was a possibility, but that the wedding of heaven and earth is a certainty. Those hints continue all around us. Let me tell a story.


A Transforming Spirit My oldest son has a form of autism we have been wrestling with for years. He just entered kindergarten, and this was a big event for us. My son began speaking very late, and though he can do fourth-grade math, it was questionable whether he could function socially in a classroom. Watching his difficulties has been a place of real fear for me—not because I think he won’t do well in school, but because I can imagine the things he struggles with leading him into a disconnected, lonesome life. I recently began helping out his class on Fridays. My job is to make sure the kids draw inside the lines and don’t eat paste. Recently, the class was doing an art project and my son asked me for his scissors. I remember buying him scissors, so I asked the teacher where his scissors were. “Oh, we took them away yesterday,” she said. “He was opening and closing them in his mouth.” A thoughtful father would probably be more concerned, but my eyes got big and I said to her, “I totally used to do that.” The dangerous thing about serving in a kindergarten class is nostalgia. Standing in the back of my son’s class, I started playing with the pencil sharpener. I looked at the charts on the walls. I examined the paints in a small cubby and pulled one out. I was off in my own little world, then I heard a loud voice from the front of the class say, “Mr. Cook!”

I dropped the paints, realized I was supposed to be helping somewhere, looked to the front of the room … and saw my son being told he needed to stay in his chair. I walked back toward the class, thinking how he and I shared the same name, both put scissors in our mouths, both were a little too energetic to stay seated. From the back, I looked at my son. He is a smaller guy like I was. He’s a daydreamer who’s socially awkward like I was, and then it hit me with full force. The little kid in the second row is me. In him, I saw my spirit. I saw the places where we do things in exactly the same kind of ways—and for the first time in years, I had no fear for my son or his future. I know who I am, where I’ve been, the things that have been difficult—and they just aren’t that terrifying. I’m as successful as I need to be in life, I have healthy relationships, a woman who loves me deeply, and right then I knew everything would be OK—for my son and I share the same spirit. When the early Christians expressed their hope in God’s future, they pointed at the resurrection, but there was something else that was more tangible, specific and informative about God’s plans for each of them. They spoke of experiencing God’s Spirit within them and within one another. The Spirit that had once hovered over chaos and helped make the world, the Spirit they saw in Jesus—that same Spirit was now in them. It was tangible, and they felt it transforming them inside and making them more like Jesus. Jesus believed the Spirit’s renewal—of both human beings and God’s world—had begun. The Spirit’s work is how new creation happens. Notice, Jesus compared the kingdom of heaven to a tiny mustard seed sprouting and eventually growing into an enormous tree filling all the sky. He compared the kingdom of heaven to yeast that slowly worked into a large

lump of dough. Both parables imply that the kingdom of heaven will not be instantaneous. Jesus thought heaven had just now begun to grow here, had just now begun to reclaim all the places that had been neglected. As such, we should think of heaven and the age to come chasing us, meeting us, enlivening us and beginning to grow right here in our midst. It’s as though the renewal of all things has begun, and you and I are being transformed now into what we will always be.

The Sight of Heaven One of my favorite photos is from the 1998 NBA Finals. Chicago is playing game five in Utah. One more win will eliminate the Jazz and give the Bulls the title. The final seconds are clicking down, and Michael Jordan has the ball. He begins to drive, thrusts forward to the top of the key, then jerks back. His move puts the defender on the floor. Jordan then pulls up, arches and releases his final shot as a Bull. The shutter snaps. The picture is from behind, and in the distance we see the shot clock and rim. The ball hangs in the air, not yet reaching the basket. Four of the defenders on the floor stare up with a sickened look. Some of Jordan’s teammates move toward the basket, but not Jordan. His body is relaxed as he descends to the floor. The beauty of this picture is the crowd. Approximately 600 fans line the stands behind the backboard, and not one is smiling. A few lean against companions for comfort. Most just have wide eyes and open mouths. All the pictured faces are a mixture of distress and defeat. Except one. A child, 10 years old or so, is on the left-hand side about six rows up. His dad has boosted him in his arms so he can see. The boy’s arms are outstretched. (They are the only arms raised in the photo except Jordan’s.) His mouth is

open—smiling and yelling something. You can see prominently—in a field of purple and white Utah Jazz jerseys—his chest covered with a red and black “23.” Nothing is official yet, but everyone in that arena lives out their reality. Everyone reacts according to the glasses they wear. Some wear purple, some red, but the glasses move them into the future. If we are willing, we can choose to see heaven. We can see it in the lives of those around us who are transformed not by lucky flukes, but the Spirit of God. We can see it in the life and resurrection of Jesus, and in ourselves. We can choose to see places in our own story not as an accident, but as a real encounter with the God who is making everything new. It is a mistake to think of heaven as ever distant, unexperienced, always a step beyond our lives now. The Bible is filled with stories not of people being hurried out of here, but of God descending and drawing the world to Himself. In the early days of creation, God descended into the Garden of Eden. During the exodus, God descended in a guiding pillar of cloud and fire. During the Jewish exile, God descended into a Babylonian fire to be with three wouldbe martyrs. In the Gospels, God descended in the incarnation of Jesus. At the origin of the Christian community, God descended like tongues of fire, which communicate to every nation a new reality. When Paul pictured the end of the age, he wrote again of God descending: “The Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command … and the dead in Christ will rise” (1 Thessalonians 4:16). The final chapters of the Bible end with a grand culmination where heaven and earth are fully wed and God makes His home with us here. What results when our lives are united to that reality—to the reign of God and the work of His Son—is new creation. As God Himself says to close the Bible: “‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death” or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things [the present age] has passed away.’ He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’” (Revelation 21:3-5) Do we choose to see our world this way? Do we choose to see heaven slowly engulfing everything and waiting for its full revelation in our midst? Our hope then is that we will continue to be transformed, that “he who began a good work in you [now] will carry it on to completion [then]” (Philippians 1:6). You and I have not yet arrived. We are not yet perfect. We are always in transit. Our lives are a work of tension—the tension between a work “begun” and a work “complete.”

But for those who experience God’s Spirit, the future is clear. We are being made more and more like Jesus who has given us His Spirit. As such, when we choose mercy over indifference, when we choose action over apathy, when we choose self-restraint and chastity over a life given over to our many reckless desires, we choose to live now in the kingdom of heaven. When we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick, house the homeless and die to ourselves for the sake of another, we enjoy the life of the age to come. When we hear the voice of God telling us we are loved, that our many sins are forgiven, we experience now what we will experience forever. When we eat together, laugh together, sing together, serve together, take communion, love our enemies and cancel debts, we choose to live the best kind of life—the life of God’s future connected to Him and to one another. Of course, Jesus is central to all this. He is not simply the one announcing a new kingdom. He is the king—the Christ—and in the pantheon of potential deities, Jesus alone is doing the work of restoration. He alone has a history of making everything new. We see it in His miraculous signs that detail what is ahead. We see it in His deconstruction of those signs when He describes the world as a garden overrun with thorns and weeds, which experiences a sudden harvest—in which both wheat and weeds are cut down, and the farmer brings all the wheat into his home, but the weeds are taken away and destroyed (Matthew 13:24-29, 36-43). Jesus’ stories and signs point toward the end of evil in a unique and tangible way. In Jesus alone do we get the sense that repair may actually become a reality. We see the defeat of evil in the events of Good Friday and Easter, for the cross and resurrection are the sign to all that there is a new king, for death could not overcome the life rising up in God’s Son. Jesus said the kingdom of heaven is like a man who entered a field and discovered a treasure. The man immediately went and in his joy he sold everything he had to purchase the field so he might return and enjoy what had been hidden. The field—as in so many of Jesus’ parables—is the world, and the man who has entered it is Jesus Himself. He has walked through the world and discovered a treasure hidden within, and in His joy He decided to go and give everything He had away in order to purchase the world—because He knew He would return to enjoy the treasure. That treasure is me, and that treasure is you. Our only proper response is to live in that reality—the reality of the Kingdom of Heaven. Jeff Cook teaches philosophy at the University of Northern Colorado, and is the author of Seven: The Deadly Sins and the Beatitudes (Zondervan 2008) and the upcoming Everything New (2011).





(l-r) Wes Miles, Milo Bonacci, Rebecca Zeller, Alexandra Lawn, Mathieu Santos

Staying Grounded

The earnest band talks peaches, a death in the family and working with Oxfam most indie bands have built-in irony—be it Vampire Weekend singing about an oxford comma with a distinctive smirk, or Best Coast wishing for a boyfriend with so much hyperbole it’s like a seventh-grade diary, satire still reigns supreme. So for a band so young, it might seem surprising that Ra Ra Riot doesn’t have much time for irony or cocksure coolness. Then you learn the band has already coped with a staggering tragedy: the death of a bandmate. In June 2007, drummer John Pike went missing after a show in Providence, R.I. His body was discovered later in Massachusetts’ Buzzards Bay, where he was believed to have drowned. “I feel like we’re still in the wake of [Pike’s death], to be honest,” guitarist Milo Bonacci says. “It both directly and indirectly impacts our lives daily—for example, having to incorporate a different person into our band every day,” violinist Rebecca Zeller says. “We had to write [our last] album just the five of us because he wasn’t here. We really felt his absence.” “There’s a lot of reminders of how it would be different if John were here,” Bonacci says. “It certainly changes your perspective on things. “John was an extraordinarily curious person, and he’d always have an interest in something and research it,” he continues. “He was interested in beer, and that started him brewing his own beer and growing his own hops. Then gardening became an interest, and suddenly he was growing his own pumpkins. He was always striving to learn more, and that would open up doors for him. That will always be a significant part of him that inspires me and my life to this day.” Perhaps that inspiration makes Ra Ra Riot approach their music with a refreshing earnestness. Their sound is hard to pigeonhole, and maybe that’s the point: melding chamber music with plaintive love songs, their oeuvre is filled with indirectness; their melodies blossom instead of burst.

Making Music in an Orchard The members of Ra Ra Riot first met on the snow-dusted campus of Syracuse University, during the last semester of their senior year. “We had just met when the band first started,” Zeller says. Collectively, all the members turned down post-graduation job offers and grad school plans to pursue the band. As Ra Ra Riot, they started playing music festivals like CMJ and South by Southwest and opening for bigger acts. Grassroots support soon swept the band into a deal with Barsuk Records, and they released their debut LP, The Rhumb Line, in 2008. Most of follow-up LP The Orchard was written at, well, a peach orchard in upstate New York, where the band camped out for five weeks on a retreat of sorts, and where Zeller says they ate their fair share of peaches. “The orchard was spoken for, but we got to eat some peaches before they turned ripe. As soon as they were ripe enough to be profitable, they were snatched up,” she says. Living in a pastoral environment also gave the band privacy. “We’re used to living together; the house is much bigger than the van,” Zeller adds. “We all had our own rooms, which felt very luxurious.” “There are a lot of Mennonite farms in the area, and sometimes we felt like we were intruding on their tranquility,” Bonacci says. “They’re working 18-hour days, and we’ve got our guitars out playing loud rock music.”

In addition to releasing the new record, Ra Ra Riot forayed into social justice this year. They teamed up with the hunger awareness organization Oxfam, contributing music to a viral video starring comedian Charlyne Yi. “Our relationship with Oxfam started early on in our career, and as we started touring more, we realized we had more of the opportunity to present their cause to our fans. Even something as little as, ‘Yeah, we’d love to have you set up a booth’ seems to go a long way toward the cause,” Zeller says. “A surprisingly large number of people have gotten connected with them and write to us to say it’s because they got connected at one of our shows. “I didn’t think we were doing this great, selfless thing by letting them just put up a table, but it seems to have gotten a growing number of people involved, which is awesome,” she adds. Another way Ra Ra Riot engages with their fans is through their various web outlets. Records can no longer sell on release dates alone, and in today’s era of the Internet, music is married to the digital business model. So it’s a necessity that the members of Ra Ra Riot are tech savvy. “It definitely limits the need to send out a postcard,” Bonacci says. “It’s effective, and it’s one of the positive aspects of the Internet.” Yet the band intentionally tries to avoid one area of the Internet: reviews of their music. “You can read a million positive things about yourself on the Internet, but one negative thing will wipe it all away,” Bonacci says. “With the Internet, people are more exposed than ever to be picked apart by anybody. “Everybody’s entitled to their opinion, but now [with the web] there’s this platform where everyone can publish their thoughts. The thing that bothers me the most is when people say things they would never say face to face. Social etiquette should be applied to the blogosphere.” “I read one review that referred to my sound as ‘melancholy strings,’ and I was like, ‘What?’ That’s not how I imagined it!” Zeller says. “It’s odd to hear your creative output critiqued like that.” Regardless of Internet opinion one way or the other, Bonacci says Ra Ra Riot isn’t primarily focused on becoming a household name. “I would love to be able to pay off my student loans,” he jokes. “But I feel like we’re growing at a comfortable rate—it’s not so sharp of an increase that there’s no structure. We’ve spent time laying that foundation.” And now that they’ve toured the world, Ra Ra Riot strives to remain down-to-earth. One method for doing so, Zeller says, is maintaining personal space on the road. “Two days in the van with your headphones on and you recharge,” she says. As a result of touring, the members of Ra Ra Riot have learned a lot about the music business—and about each other. “In college, we all probably saw each other five hours a week, at practice or a show, and now we see each other 24 hours a day,” Bonacci says. “We used to have our social lives and do the band on the side,” Zeller adds. “Now we have our band and do our lives on the side.”

“There’s a lot of reminders of how it would be different if John were here.” —Milo Bonacci

Ra Ra Riot’s Video for “Boy” Don’t know what this thing is? Check out page 6 for instructions, and then watch one of Ra Ra Riot’s music videos.





In his most recent book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, author Donald Miller spends a lot of time talking about making your life into a good story. So perhaps it’s ironic that, up until mid-October, the making of Miller’s breakout book, Blue Like Jazz, into a film was shaping up to be a disastrous story. “We finished the script in 2007. We did a reading and the reading went great, and honestly I thought this was gonna be really easy. I have experience in birthing creative projects, and I never had anything seem more obvious and an easier thing to raise money for. And I was wrong,” says Steve Taylor, director and co-screenwriter of Blue Like Jazz: The Movie. “I could not get anybody to sign on. I think the [connections we had] tended to be more in the Christian world, older and probably more conservative. People didn’t really get it—they didn’t know what Blue Like Jazz was; they thought the script was too edgy. It just didn’t fit their idea of what they thought a movie like this should be. Perhaps it’s not surprising that people might be suspicious of the film. After all, Taylor practically started his career by making people in the Christian music industry mad.

In his several albums as a solo music artist, Taylor took on sacred cows like televangelists and Christian political drama. And perhaps the most famous part of Blue Like Jazz is the part where Miller and other Christians apologize to rowdy partiers for evils perpetrated in the name of Christ. But Taylor, Miller and co-screenwriter Ben Pearson felt they were close to the start of the film ... several times. “We must have had three or four different false starts,” Taylor recalls. “It was frustrating and baffling that we were having this much trouble. Everything came together except the money. The final blow was we had a deadline of September 15, 2009. The window came and we thought we had barely cobbled together the money, and then someone who was going to put in a quarter million dollars backed out. That night I called Don and said, ‘You’re not going to believe it, but somebody’s pulled out.’ We were both really bummed out. That night he blogged about it, and I did the same on the movie’s website. We were both saying, ‘We’ve done our best, but we just can’t get this off the ground.’” Pearson remembers the time surrounding the announcement as the latest chapter in a

courtesy blue like jazz: the movie

bad story. “Before he blogged that the movie was being put on hold, Don told Steve and I: ‘Hey guys, we’ve got a great script, and [A Million Miles in a Thousand Years] is all about us getting together to make this movie. But as far as fundraising for Blue Like Jazz: The Movie, we don’t have a good story yet.’” But then the unimaginable happened. After announcing the death of the film, Miller received a message on his blog. “Don called me and said, ‘There are these guys, and they have an idea—I think you should talk to them.’ So I got with them, we got Don on a conference call and they pitched their idea in detail,” Taylor says. “They were very enthusiastic, and they wanted [to save the movie]. And one guy who had been part of the project early on said, ‘I’ll match whatever they can raise.’ Since we needed to replace that $250,000, we decided to try for $125,000.” The two guys, Zach Prichard and Jonathan Frazier, created People found out, cared about the story that was being told and decided to save the movie using to fundraise.

for the good of the project. There’s [an] old saying: ‘Good, fast, cheap: pick two.’ The second day of production, I gave everyone in our crew T-shirts [that say,] ‘Team BLJ: Good, Fast, Cheap: Pick Three.’ Because that’s what we’re asking people to do. “We’ve got five weeks, we’ve got very limited financial resources and it’s gotta be great. I think people are going to be surprised.” “We always envisioned this film with a bit more of a budget,” Pearson echoes. “And now it’s a matter of honest filmmaking. There was the ideal, and now there’s the actual. You have to embrace both and continue the pursuit of excellence. We haven’t got money for a huge 45-foot crane to pan over the bigger scenes. But we’ve got enough money to shoot the movie and get it in the can.” All of this glosses over the fact no one really knows much about the plot of the movie. And it’s based on a Christian book, and everyone knows the, um, poor track record “Christian movies” have, both in terms of quality and in visibility. What will make Blue Like Jazz: The Movie any different? “We really do know where all those [Christian movie] traps are,” Taylor laughs. “We worked really hard to not fall into any of them. The book gave us a lot of permission to do that to begin with, and then the setting gives us a lot of permission. “This is not a family movie. I’ve got a daughter, and we all love things that are good for the whole family, but the thought that ‘faith friendly’ and ‘family friendly’ are the same thing is absurd.” While they’re not sure what the rating will be or even when it will be released (they’re shooting for a PG-13 rating—Taylor says they’re currently flirting with an R—and a fall 2011 release), it’s clear everyone behind the film is taking it very seriously. Which is likely a result of trying to be good stewards with money from 4,500 people. “It’s not Steve’s film, Don’s film or my film anymore,” Pearson says, choking up. “It’s everybody’s film. And that is extremely humbling. We’ll do our best and see where the journey takes us. Nothing like this has ever happened in our experience. It’s called us up to a new level. “We’re still confined by budget and everything, but everybody on this team knows this is an incredibly unique project. A lot of people have signed on; the crew is a large one. But they’re saying, ‘I know you can only pay me this much, but, you know what, I really want to do this film.’ So it’s our film now. It’s extremely exciting.“

“WE MIGHT BE ON THE VERGE OF A REALLY GREAT STORY.” —BEN PEARSON, CO-SCREENWRITER “ goes up and people start donating,” Pearson remembers. “And I’m like: ‘Oh my word, we might be on the verge of a really great story. The people are putting their money where their beliefs are!’” Taylor initially didn’t even think it was possible. “I tried to talk them down—I said, ‘No project on Kickstarter has ever had that big of a goal,’” he laughs. “They were like, ‘Trust us.’ And they certainly proved me wrong. “That week that it started was fantastic, [especially] after four years of frustration and befuddlement and getting to a place where it looked like it was over,” Taylor continues. “Within 10 days we hit the goal and at that point it was like, ‘Wow, we’re really making a movie.’ Then it was this scramble to try to get everything together. But the group that came together was so energized because of what a great story this is.” They ended up raising just under $350,000 from 4,500 donors, which, Taylor notes, put the film’s total budget (after all the donors kick in) at about $800,000. Of course, that raises the question: Can you even make a good drama for that amount of money? “It’s possible, it’s just harder,” Taylor says. “It’s very difficult to do unless you’ve got a small army of people who really want to see it done and are willing to make sacrifices

What Does Making an $800,000 Movie Look Like? Filming is well on its way. Here are a few takes from off camera:

Character study Marshall Allman stars as Donald Miller in Blue Like Jazz: The Movie.

Life is like a bike shop ... The shop where Miller works and spends time thinking about life and girls and God.

The halls of academia Steve Taylor and crew on the set for Reed College, where Miller audits classes.

Costume party Hundreds of extras in Nashville helped film some of the elaborate crowd scenes.

BLJ: Behind the Scenes Don’t know what this thing is? Check out page 6 for instructions, and then watch this video.



BY Jonathan Merritt

A look at how the massive political movement is impacting American Christians



The morning following Election Day is always filled with winners and losers. But this past November, a surprising winner could have delivered an acceptance speech: the Tea Party. Of the 60 seats turned over in Congress, Tea Party-endorsed candidates made up more than 30 of them. President Obama called it a “shellacking.” As the new Congress takes their seats on Jan. 20 and we enter a non-election year, it’s easy to forget—but hard to overstate—the influence and momentum of this political amalgam. Formed as a grassroots reaction to the election of Barack Obama and policies such as the health care reform bill and the bailout of the auto and banking industries, the Tea Party is flying high. Nearly four in 10 Americans claim to be a part of the movement. “Tea Party influence is likely to extend beyond mere numbers,” the L.A. Times reports. “By stiffening the anti-spending bloc in the House and Senate, the Tea Party members will put new pressure on conservative Democrats as well as members of their own party, impacting future legislative battles and the climate for 2012.” But who are these people? Are they truly a third party or just a reinvigorated Republican conglomerate? What do Tea Partiers believe, and what do they want? Some have speculated that the Tea Party is actually a new expression of the old Christian right. According to an October 2010 survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), 47 percent of Americans who support the Tea Party also say they identify with the Christian right. Additionally, the study found that nearly half of Tea Partiers believe America is “a Christian nation” and the Bible is the literal word of God. “If you took the Christians and their values out of the Tea Party movement, it would no longer be a movement. It would no longer be a factor on America’s political scene,” says Joseph Farah, editor-in-chief of WorldNetDaily and author of The Tea Party Manifesto. He

notes that the movement recognizes America as a “self-governing Christian society” and points out that every Tea Party meeting he has attended began in prayer. Additionally, some Christian leaders have fallen in line with the movement, and others have been quick to declare their affections for the party after the midterm results were counted. Ralph Reed, former head of the Christian Coalition, held a post-election press conference and made it clear that the “Tea Party and evangelicals are not at odds.” It’s what Robert Jones of PRRI has called a “shotgun wedding” between Christians and the Tea Party. “But these groups’ happy union is challenged by a classic relationship problem: misplaced worries that there are serious divisions where there are few, and blind confidence that there are no divisions where significant differences lurk,” he says. Christians need to ask just how “Christian” this movement is, so as not to rush off to the altar and wake up the next morning with regrets.

Who’s Throwing This Party? The last time we saw a so-called “Republican revolution” was in 1994 when no Republican incumbent lost and America witnessed a 54-seat swing. In that year, Christian political leaders were among the most notable and vocal voices. Ralph Reed and Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition, for example, was at its political peak and distributed 40 million copies of the “Family Values Voters Guides” in more than 100,000 churches nationwide. But this movement is quite different in terms of leadership. “There are massive numbers of Christians, especially evangelical Christians, awakening as part of the Tea Party movement. Polls show a clear majority of them fit this category,” Farah says. “But, whereas the movement spurred by Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell was an awakening led largely by Christian leaders, this movement arises in the midst of a vacuum of spiritual leadership.” Rather than cheering for evangelical pastors on political talk shows, conservative evangelicals are now tuning into lectures from Mormon pundit Glenn Beck or downright offensive soliloquies from radio host Mark Williams (who was thrown out as a Tea Party spokesperson for making racially charged comments). Many Tea Partiers admit being influenced by the writings of philosopher Ayn Rand, who was both an atheist and antiChristian and authored such best-sellers as Atlas Shrugged that de-emphasize humans’ moral obligations to others. And former U.S. Representative Dick Armey, who has been vocal over the years in his opposition to well-known Christian leaders such as James Dobson, is a prominent Tea Party leader.

Whether or not this movement can be called “Christian” may be up for debate, but we can say for certain that at least some of its leadership doesn’t fit the bill. And, as a result, not every Christian is falling in lockstep behind the ones throwing this party. Sure, there are some evangelical Christians, including Sarah Palin, at the helm of this movement, but their involvement has often been eclipsed by others. It was Beck who delivered the commencement address this

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE TEA PARTY April 15, 2009: The Tea Party is Born Tax-day protests in more than 200 cities draw an estimated 250,000 to 500,000 people.

Jan. 19, 2010: First Tea Party Upset Rep. Scott Brown wins Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat in an upset widely attributed to the Tea Party.

Feb. 4, 2010: National Convention The first Tea Party convention is held in Nashville. Sarah Palin delivers the keynote address.

Nov. 2, 2010: Election “Shellacking” Tea Party-endorsed candidates win 30 of the 60 seats turned over in Congress.

year at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, and his “Rally to Restore Honor” was seen by some as an effort to mobilize religious voters behind his headship. Gallup reports that the Fox News host is now admired by more Americans than the pope. His rising popularity as a spokesperson for evangelicals has incited a backlash from many Christian leaders. “I was disturbed to see huge sectors of American Christianity willing to repudiate the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the sake of a political movement,” says Russell Moore, Dean of the School of Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. “Glenn Beck, who is a member of a church which denies that Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God, set himself up as a religious leader, leading a ‘revival.’ Some so-called ‘evangelical’ leaders empowered him to do so, and that is a scandal.” This is not to suggest Christians should rush off to form their own political enclaves with their own self-appointed Christian generals. That’s an approach that was tried by previous generations, and the net effect on the


Christian movement has been disastrous. Still, when evaluating any organization to which pundits apply the “Christian” moniker, we must ask whether the leaders are faithful to such a label. And in the case of the Tea Party, we find a mixed bag at best.

What’s Being Celebrated? As with any party, you would want to know who (or what) the party is for before agreeing to attend. It seems the same principle applies here. So what exactly do Tea Partiers believe, and how does that line up with where Christians have stood historically? When Tea Partiers were asked what most stoked their passions in a CBS News/New York Times survey, the top four responses were the health care reform bill, the government not representing the people, government spending and the economy. They overwhelmingly see illegal immigration as a serious problem and doubt the impact of global warming. Ninety-two percent say America is on the wrong track, 88 percent disapprove of the president’s performance on the job and only 1 percent approve of the job Congress is doing. In light of such things, Moore notes the Tea Party may have retained the tone and strategy of the religious right, but the emphasis has clearly changed. During the “Republican revolution” in 1994, the most pressing issues were the so-called “moral issues” dealing with traditional values. But those have been a nonfactor in this new movement. As Jonathan Martin and Ben Smith of Politico said before the November election, “At a moment that finds the Right energized and seemingly ascendant, the battles over


morality-based cultural issues such as gay marriage, abortion and illegal drugs that did so much to drive the conservative movement and dominated the political conversation for more than 30 years have abated, giving way not just to economic anxiety, but to a new set of emotionally charged issues.” “What the Tea Party movement is really about—fundamentally—is a desire to return America to its constitutional roots and its form of limited government and self-government,” Farah says. “Having spoken to tens of thousands of Tea Party activists and met hundreds and hundreds of them, I believe the mission statement that best represents this movement can be found in the Declaration of Independence.” Such a sentiment would be a shift for those Christians who believe for better or ill that another document must guide us as people— namely, the Bible. But it also marks a change in the guiding narrative of Christian political engagement. Rather than being rooted in a personal faith that guides a political narrative, public discourse is now largely rooted in American historical narrative. Perhaps the Tea Party agenda is made up of issues that Christians can, in good conscience, rightfully support. That’s a separate debate. But issues historically championed by most Christians have taken a back seat.

Who’s at the Party? You can tell a lot about a movement by simply showing up, looking around and surveying the participants. When you sample the Tea Party, you find—to put it bluntly—middle-aged, angry, white people. Only 1 percent of Tea Partiers are black, 75 percent are 45 years old or older, and 53 percent describe themselves as “angry” about what is going on in Washington. These are problems for a movement largely comprised of Christians, and one that needs the continued support of Christians to survive. Any organization with hopes for longterm viability must find new recruits. Every movement is either getting older or staying younger. But this movement doesn’t seem able to capture the heart of younger voters. This goes back to the question of agenda. Not only does the Tea Party seem disinterested in traditional issues, but they also fail to address things many young people care about. Poverty, environmental care and global injustice are mostly absent in Tea Party discussions in favor of issues for which young

people have rarely shown concern (i.e., small government and social security). “I think you’re going to see the next generation of evangelicals, unlike the last generation, unwilling to be an interest group of either party or either movement,” Moore says. “Evangelicals will be concerned about the unborn, the orphaned, the widowed, the immigrant and enslaved, and [they] will be drawn to issues ranging from the right-to-life, to creation care to AIDS relief in ways that don’t fit the easy categorizations.” After Moore wrote an article criticizing Glenn Beck’s rally, he said he received an onslaught of complaints. Interestingly, the responses were almost exclusively from angry baby boomers. “Those falling for this kind of hyper-politicized civil religion tend to be in the oldest wave of the baby boomers. Younger evangelicals tend to be more theologically and missiologically defined,” he says. Perhaps there is some overlap between the conservative Christian movement and the Tea Party movement. But if it might be appropriately labeled “Christian,” it does so without Christian leadership, without much of the historic Christian agenda and without the support of an entire generation.

The After Party As the dust settles from last year’s election, the Tea Party may just be getting started. Brendan Steinhauser, director of federal and state campaigns for FreedomWorks, a national Tea Party group claiming 650,000 members, says their “long-term goal is to build a movement that is here to stay for decades and focus on our core issues.” Congresswoman Michele Bachmann’s (R-Minn) newly formed Tea Party congressional caucus already has more than 50 members. A representative for Bachmann told that they are expecting “a huge boost when the new Congress meets.” The growing prominence of the Tea Party movement only intensifies our need as Christians to be prayerful and thoughtful in public engagement. We should be slow to enlist ourselves in any organization whose message could usurp the Gospel’s and cautious about any agenda other than Christ’s. “The quest for political power (whether Left or Right),” Moore reminds us, “always diverts the Church from the Gospel of the Kingdom.” There’s no real reason the Tea Party might be called “Christian.” Like any political movement, it runs the risk of distracting Christians from things of first importance. Jonathan Merritt is the author of Green Like God (2010) and a faith and culture writer whose work has appeared in such outlets as USA Today, and The Washington Post.





JUNE 22-24 \\ JULY 13-15














cold war 54 / RELEVANT_JAN/FEB 11





THERE’S A LONG PAUSE AS NATHAN WILLETT CONSIDERS A QUESTION AND HOW HE WANTS TO ANSWER. IT’S A PATTERN THROUGHOUT THE INTERVIEW: QUESTION, LONG PAUSE, QUESTION, LONG PAUSE. The hesitation is a remnant of a different, more furtive time—a time when he wasn’t sure what he could say and to whom. It’s a tough habit to shake, admits the Cold War Kids frontman, who apologizes from time to time for being vague with some of his answers. He knows he wants to say more than ever before— but he’s still not sure how much more. The singer knows it could be a dangerous move—that putting himself out there and making it personal will open him up to criticism and leave him vulnerable. But, this time, he says, he’s ready. He’s ready to be honest about where he comes from, the challenges he’s faced along the way and the faith behind it all ... because everything seems to matter more these days. It’s time to open up. “That’s where I fell short on the second record,” he says of 2008’s Loyalty to Loyalty. “I didn’t really feel comfortable enough to be vulnerable with my bandmates even, and after we finished it I thought I sold us all short by not stepping out and saying something.” What Willett is saying on the band’s third full-length album, Mine Is Yours, out Jan. 25 on Downtown/Mercury, comes from the pages of his own life. His new lyrics cover topics familiar to a counselor’s couch: Fractured relationships. Self-doubt. Broken homes. Make no mistake, though—this album isn’t a downer. It’s about personal breakthroughs. The band’s two previous albums, their acclaimed 2006 debut Robbers and Cowards and then Loyalty to Loyalty, used characters to tell stories of people in need of such a breakthrough. There’s the thief who steals from the church offering (“Passing the Hat”), the drunk who continuously disappoints his family (“We Used to Vacation”) and a woman looking for love in the wrong places (“Every Man I Fall For”).


Willett’s previously admitted some of the characters were loosely based on people in his life, but that’s as personal as it got. This time, though, Willett himself is the character whose story is in the songs.

A Rebellious Faith Willett’s story, like so many good ones, hinges on a moment—a clarifying event before which everything was one way, and after which nothing was ever the same again. For Willett, it was his parents’ divorce and the subsequent end of his faith. “It was almost like I had something written in pencil all around me and it was erased at that time,” he says. “It was a very poignant time in my life, and in [some] ways it shaped me more than anything.” Aside from the new track “Sensitive Kid” on Mine Is Yours, the best summary Willett can give of his childhood is found in an Arcade Fire song. Every time he hears the line, “Working for the Church while my family dies,” from Neon Bible’s “Intervention,” it hits a nerve. “I had seen the difference between what people say they are and what they really are,” he says. Willett grew up in a conservative family in Southern California. His father was deeply involved in the church, leading everything from Bible studies to church plants. His mother was a Christian marriage and family counselor. In his family, there was no line separating church and estate. Which is, of course, what made the divorce all the more devastating. He questioned all he was taught. He doubted the Church. He found himself searching for the answers on his own, away from his family. “I was really volatile toward church and faith for a long time, but way more so toward

church than faith,” Willett says. “The church to me wasn’t real at all. It was about doing the right things and keeping up appearances. From the time my parents split up, everything tied to church just vanished.” Gone were the days of youth group and small group. Willett entered his high school years searching for meaning and refining his own beliefs among friends who grew up without a spiritual background. Then, after two years of junior college, he ended up at Biola University—a private Christian liberal arts university in Southern California. His father’s connections helped him get a good deal on tuition, and Willett was attracted to the small university’s strong literature program. While he disagreed (and still disagrees) with many aspects of his university experience, Willett’s overall time at Biola cleared up some confusion caused by his parents’ divorce. His cynicism and bitterness began to fade as he was surrounded by and challenged by a new community of friends. “At that time [I felt] enormous cynicism toward all things institutional Christianity,” Willett says. “I was really amazed by how artistic and creative these people were, and that changed a lot of how I thought about stuff at the time.” It was finding this kinship with other young, incredulous Christians that Willett says truly helped him heal. He describes a group of creative people with backgrounds similar to

“IT WAS ALMOST LIKE I HAD SOMETHING WRITTEN IN PENCIL ALL AROUND ME AND IT WAS ERASED ...” —NATHAN WILLETT his, who were asking questions and resisting some aspects of their own conservative upbringings—yet still searching for something more from their faith. “It is a conservative school, and there’s a lot of things I really don’t and didn’t like about it,” Willett says. “But I met so many creative people who had a similar experience to me in that they had a major kind of agenda to really push back against the evangelical, conservative upbringing they had and to believe in something that was a lot bigger than that. I think that is what attracted me to a lot of people I met there, including these guys.”

“These guys” includes half of Cold War Kids: Jonnie Russell (guitar, vocals, percussion) and Matt Maust (bass), who both attended Biola and who Willett met while there. (Drummer Matt Aveiro, who didn’t attend Biola, is more personal with his spirituality, Willett says.) Willett explains that Russell, the son of a preacher man, grew up with parents who were both highly educated in theology and philosophy. Maust grew up in a Mennonite community in Kansas. “They’re a really interesting branch,” Willett says of Maust’s background. “They’re more of a removed culture ... very anti-materialism, so he has a lot of that. I love that about him, and I think that is a big part of what our band is.” Despite their different backgrounds, the Biola graduates—like so many of their peers who grew up in the Church—share a frustration for much of the Christian subculture.

Willett laughs, remembering how his circle of friends used to use the word “Christian” as an adjective to describe a general state of atrociousness—a view that came from their collective embarrassment over Christianized versions of music, film and books. “If you had dinner and your meal was terrible, or you went to a movie and it was bad,” Willett recalls, “you’d call it ‘Christian.’ “We were all really embarrassed by and ashamed of a lot of the culture we came from,” Willett continues. “But not necessarily ashamed or embarrassed by the beliefs we had.”

Fighting the Stereotypes Even a casual fan of Cold War Kids knows strong opinions of the band exist—both positive and negative. It’s these wildly varied judgments and how very personal they get that’s led Willett to remain private in the past.

Some perspectives, Willett believes, were originally formed by reviews. A few of these critiques, such as Pitchfork’s review of Robbers and Cowards, tried to call the band out on its faith. Willett can take the criticism of the music. What irked him and others in the band was what he saw as “wild interpretations” of the album’s lyrics that pointed to a supposed underlying religious right agenda. The spiritual accents in the album—a mention of baptisms, a few hallelujahs and some “Lord, have mercy on me’s”—led the reviewer to quote former President George W. Bush in the album’s critique. Willett says any attempt at a connection between the themes and conservative politics is laughable. “You’d think, ‘Wow, how crazy is it that people would read that into this?’—especially from a popular website that generally has pretty good writing,” he says. “In some ways that was the beginning of people not being totally sure what to do with us.
 “Nothing could be worse than that because that is what we’re pushing against,” Willett continues. “It will just take some time for that story to come out.” While Pitchfork has positively reviewed Christian artists such as Sufjan Stevens and Neutral Milk Hotel, Willett says he believes the spiritual lyrics still put up a red flag. “I think it had a lot more to do [with] the idea [that] an artist having some kind of religious background would derail any potency in the art itself,” he says. “I think that’s a fascinating idea, but we didn’t get to be a part of that conversation before it really blew up.” It’s a simplistic connection that frustrates Willett—Christian themes don’t have to mean right wing influences. Being from a Christian background doesn’t have to result in the stereotype of Christianity and faith that so many people automatically assume. “Our background and our influences all come from that, but it’s far more nuanced and interesting than we’ve really had a platform to express,” he says. “That’s something I think as we continue we’ll get to really unpack more and do so with a little more eloquence.”

In This World, Not of It Today, Willett reports the band’s faith is still intact—even after seven years in the world of touring, fans, record labels and merchandise. “We always know it’s not really our world,” he says. “We don’t ever want the commerce of our band to really be something that’s a major part of our lives.” Even so, Willett admits to struggling with his own faith from time to time. He’s comfortable with the struggle, though. That is, he says, how


it’s supposed to be. “Faith is a struggle,” he muses. “That’s another part of the background we came from that we had a problem with. People thought of faith as arriving, instead of a journey. The idea that faith puts you in heaven and that life on earth just needs to be lived as best as you can is, again, really what we’re against.” Despite their beliefs, the singer wants to make it clear there’s still no hidden agenda in the band’s music. He wants people who come from all different faiths and backgrounds to fall in love with his band for the same reason they follow R.E.M. and Radiohead. Not because of a message, but because of the music. “Thom Yorke can write a song that has multiple meanings and it’s more true to an expression of emotion because, as a listener, there’s no thought that there would ever be an underlying agenda,” he says. “I’d always want to fall on that side of things. You don’t get into a band because all of their ideas line up with your ideas; you get into a band because you love the songs.” Just under the surface, you can still hear those frustrations with the old reviews. For Willett, those associated stereotypes and the assumptions made because of them terrify him. He wants a clean slate—for his band and

strengths of Robbers and Cowards while trying something different at the same time. “I wasn’t exactly sure how to do that, and I think that was kind of obvious—hearing Loyalty, it was a little less focused and lyrically a little more abstract,” he says. “Right after we finished that album I kind of thought to myself: ‘I have to really know where I’m going to take this next time. It needed to be more defined.’” Eventually, the band itself seemed to lose its connection to the album. Willett admits thinking at one point that he’d be disappointed if it ended up being their last record. A review of a show on the band’s most recent tour by online magazine Consequence of Sound noted, “A Cold War Kids concert used to feel like all the best parts of going to church, but now it’s just communion; white, bland, and flimsy, but ultimately harmless.” Leading up to writing Mine Is Yours, the band members found themselves reevaluating what they wanted from each other and from their work. They had lost some of the spark in their live shows and were afraid of losing fans. While he considers some of the criticism of Loyalty to Loyalty valid, Willett expects it to play an important role in the span of the band’s entire career. “I think maybe hindsight will shed a little

“THE EXPRESSION ITSELF DOESN’T COME WITH ANY KIND OF LOADED GUN.” —NATHAN WILLETT his listeners. He wants people to approach his music without baggage, with only a desire to hear honest lyrics and good music. “I’d never want anybody’s interpretations of what we’re about to get in the way of our expression,” he says. “The expression itself doesn’t come with any kind of loaded gun.”

light on that album,” he says. “It’s one of those things where it’s probably more interesting for people to visit it later. I’ll always kind of view it that way. There’s songs on it that I really love— songs I think are some of our best songs, but it’s also a transition point … but I hope every one of our records will be a transition point.”

Learning from the Slump

Broken Open

It’s a term many bands dread hearing after they release their second album: sophomore slump. Following the sudden success of Robbers and Cowards, the band faced a challenge in topping themselves artistically. While Loyalty to Loyalty gave them a strong single, “Something Is Not Right With Me,” and fan favorites, such as “I’ve Seen Enough” and “Mexican Dogs,” the album didn’t connect as well with listeners as the band had hoped. “With Loyalty, I think people found it hard to listen to because it’s so loose and you’re not really sure where you’re going a lot of the time,” Willett says. “There’s something that’s unmistakably very ‘us’ about that. It’s kind of a Velvet Underground thing.” Lyrically, Willett had wanted to repeat the

Although Willett realized the need to be more open on this album, he didn’t find his inspiration for doing so until he returned home from the band’s last tour for its Behave Yourself EP. The EP served as a sort of au revoir to their previous work. They wanted something new moving forward. Away from the fans, the lights, the crew and the thrill of being on the road, Willett realized the relationships around him were changing. “During the last few years of touring we’ve seen the shift happen in relationships,” he says. “Going from mid-20s, good times to getting more settled in life, pursuing commitment and being locked into relationships. We’ve seen how when you hit that point of being locked in, in some ways


the real you comes out. That’s what really interested me.” Willett also found inspiration for Mine Is Yours in the work of John Cassavetes, a pioneer of American independent film known for his use of improvisation and realistic cinéma vérité style. One such film was 1974’s A Woman Under the Influence. “He talks about how really there’s nothing more interesting than a man and a woman in their relationship when they’re at their breaking point,” Willett says. “That was the starting point of this album for me—seeing some people fail in their relationships and not because of reasons they were aware of.” As he began writing more personal lyrics to reflect the unfolding of relationships in his own life and the lives around him, Willett found the transition from the abstract to the personal to be a natural one. He discovered that art, when rooted in a true expression, comes easily. “In many ways, once you kind of arrive at an idea that is right for you and true, it’s really easy,” he says. “Once I realized where this was going, I think it was all very easy. I think that’s the way it goes with art.”

Sonically, Mine Is Yours also reveals something new. The members of the band are the same since they began in 2004. However, they’re chasing something different with this album. Though their signature minimalist approach to music remains, it’s now found in anthemic song structures and a more rich sound. There’s more emotion behind this new music. To capture their new sound, they decided to work with an outside producer for the first time. They hired Jacquire King, known for his work with Tom Waits and Modest Mouse, and for helping Kings of Leon gain the national spotlight with their last two albums. Fans of Cold War Kids’ two previous albums and slew of EPs will find songs that echo their previous work, such as the epic rocker “Louder than Ever” and the confident “Royal Blue.” At the same time, listeners may be surprised by the joy bursting from the vocals and lyrics, and the arena-sized choruses of songs like “Finally Begin” and “Out of the Wilderness.” “It’s a more produced record with more textures, but it still sounds like us,” Willett says. “Overall, there’s a broader sonic palette.”

From Now On Willett counts himself fortunate to be where he is today—both personally and as a band. It’s been a relatively easy road to this point. Missing in Cold War Kids’ story are the cliché battles with record label executives, managers and fellow bandmates. Instead, they’ve had what most bands dream of—people surrounding them who only wanted them to be what they wanted to be. “Nobody really nudged us to make any choices to be bigger or think bigger,” he says. Since forming in 2004, Willett confesses the band hasn’t had grand plans to be the next big thing. They simply wanted to do their thing. They drove around Southern California with their gear in their cars, practicing wherever they could steal space and rocking whatever crowd would hear them. He says they’ve always been surprised by any success they’ve had along the way. But something changed before Mine Is Yours, and it wasn’t just Willett who had to grow by opening up to his own story—the band as a whole needed to find the answers to a number of questions. Where did they come

from? Where did they want to go? How should their faith and art mix? What are the benefits of baring your soul in song? While Willett stresses there’s nothing intentionally hidden in the lyrics of Mine Is Yours, the album does have something the previous two didn’t: ambition. “We want to be influential,” Willett says. “We want to be artistic. We want to make music that inspires people and moves people and is important to people. I don’t think we really wanted that stuff before.” Willett pauses for a beat, about to wrap up, but then he adds once more—just for good measure—that it really is just about the music. “Of course, we want the art to speak for itself,” he says. “We don’t want our backgrounds and our ideas to be what this band is about. We want our records to be what this band is about.” The Making of Mine Is Yours Don’t know what this thing is? Check out page 6 for instructions, and then watch a video of CWK making their new album.


by Bryan Allain


Indie Rocker Sufjan Stevens Releases an Album Entirely Composed of Vuvuzelas After releasing an EP and an album of experimental electronic music at the end of 2010, Sufjan Stevens will continue to expand his musical horizons by releasing a new record exclusively using vuvuzelas in 2011. Titled simply Bzzzzzzzz, the album will consist of 64 minutes of atonal vuvuzela blaring, accompanied by some of Stevens’ most


The decade (what are we calling it? Is this the “tens”?) started with a whimper, not a bang. Instead of being the year of flying cars or when we finally got a hoverboard, it was the year unemployment kinda stayed the same, Apple continued slowly turning into Microsoft circa 1996 and Dancing with the Stars was inexplicably the number-one show in America. But fear not: 2011 is here, and we are prepared to make some exciting predictions. These 11 predictions might not make for the most comfortable year, but it sure won’t be a boring one—and they will come true. In fact, we guarantee* it.

painfully personal songwriting yet. Tracks such as “Seriously, the State Project Was a Joke, Stop Bugging Me” and “Sorry Age of Adz Wasn’t ‘Precious’ Enough for Your Mom” take on a biting tone as Stevens’ strained tenor flits over and through the vuvuzelas’ hypnotic drone. Naturally, the album will go triple-platinum.


Much like the reality show itself, the formula Jersey Shore star Michael Sorrentino has used to achieve stardom is relatively simple. Take the most prolific part of your body (in Sorrentino’s case, his abs), apply a clever, if not bizarre, nickname (The Situation) and laugh all the way to the bank. In 2011, don’t be surprised if you see a few high-profile Christians following The Situation’s lead in hopes of cashing in on their own unique body parts. Some of the year’s best will include Donald Miller naming his fingers “The Jazzmakers,” Jon Acuff dubbing his unibrow “The Singularity” and Joel Osteen referring to his smile as “The Brilliance.”


Following the Jersey Shore Lead, Christians Start Naming Body Parts


Your Grandma Gets an iPhone When Verizon gets the iPhone in early 2011, the partnership will likely put the popular handset into 6 million more pockets and purses than it already is. Other than giving Steve Jobs something else to brag about while wearing a tragically tucked-in black turtleneck, the boom in popularity will make owning an iPhone as common as carrying a Visa card. That means most of your friends and family members will have one. Why are we telling you this? To prepare you for two certainties: 1) The brutal interrogation from your grandmother on how to get three stars in level 2-12 of Angry Birds, and 2) The first time your mom texts you to ask, “How do I open this TimeFace chat room thing?” (By the way, Grandma, first you destroy the ice with the blue birds, then you kill both pigs with your first yellow bird.)



Silly Bandz Become the Mark of the Beast

Kids are wearing them, schools are banning them and parents are threatening to throw them out if they see one more pile on the living room floor. Silly Bandz, the pre-formed silicone bracelets, have pretty much taken over the world—even the coolest of hipsters have been known to rock them. Like Miley Cyrus, it appears the Silly Bandz fad can’t be tamed ... but where are we headed in all of this? Obviously, the Antichrist has abandoned the “embedded microchip” Mark of the Beast idea for a much simpler option. Picture this scene: The Antichrist’s minions break down your door and demand to know who you’re aligned with for the Battle of Armageddon. If that rubber bracelet you’re wearing unwinds itself into the shape of a “666” symbol, you’ll be allowed to live. But if it springs into the unmistakable shape of a Jesus fish, welcome to the tribulation. We just blew your minds, didn’t we? Expect to see Left Behind: Bandz of the Beast on bookstore shelves in time for your summer vacation.

Suburban Outfitters To meet the needs of their ever-aging customers, Urban Outfitters will expand in 2011 by opening Suburban Outfitters stores. Just like Urban catered to the sophisticated, kitschy and ironic tastes of urban-dwelling hipsters, Suburban Outfitters will reach suburbanites by selling goods that simultaneously uphold and mock their way of life. Need a lawn ornament? Look no farther than S.O.’s exhaustive grass decorations section. Need an appropriately suburban method of transportation?

Instead of fixed-gear bikes, Suburban Outfitters will carry a wondrous selection of minivans, decked out with ironic bumper stickers like “Baby on Board” and “My Child Is an Honor Student.” And in the same way Urban has a table full of books dedicated to all things hipster, Suburban Outfitters will carry such best-sellers as Look at That [Expletive] Suburbanite and Things I Overheard at the PTA Meeting, along with popular picture books like Banksy’s Guide to Shingling.



Sports Fans Become Empty Shells of Their Former Selves


Christians Team Up to Form Power Leagues

You’ve heard whispers about the potential lockouts in the NFL and the NBA, but you’ve chosen to ignore them. Like it or not, though, there won’t be any professional basketball or football on television once the fall of 2011 rolls around. While LeBron is busy taking his dancing talents to the clubs of South Beach, the rest of you will be left with a gaping void on your Sunday afternoons. So what sport will step in and capture the attention of America’s competitive spirit? The answer is ... ESPN’s Great Indoor Games. After canceling the outdoor version in 2006, the sports network has had a distinct dearth of awesomely bad primetime programming. The most popular event will be La-Z-Boy Cat Flinging (don’t worry, no animals will be harmed). Each owner places a cat in front of the recliner’s footrest, then lifts it up with enough force to propel the cat into the air. The more air, the better the score. Obviously, we don’t need to tell you Fantasy Indoor Games will be a phenomenon.

01 03

Rick Warren teams up with Bill Hybels to form Saddle Creek Church, the first church big enough to be its own county.


Tony Dungy comes out of retirement to coach the Buffalo Bills and brings Kurt Warner, Shaun Alexander and Deion Sanders with him. The team forgoes cheerleaders for the NFL’s first sideline flag ministry team, introducing their own version of “The Super Bowl Shuffle” and the “Hail Mary Hallelujah Hop.”

Best-selling author Max Lucado shadows Tim Tebow for the entire 2011 football season to write his next book, titled Discovering God’s Run-Pass Dual Threat Plan for Your Life. Unfortunately, Lucado’s oncetextbook throwing mechanics also suffer.


Blogger/worship leader Carlos “Ragamuffin Soul” Whittaker grows his hair out and joins up with John Mark McMillan, Chris Tomlin and David Crowder to form The Worship Xtravaganza Movement.


2010 wasn’t the first time we’ve seen Christians joining forces to conquer the world, but it does seem to be happening more now. Just last year, the Newsboys released their first album with former DC-Talker Michael Tait on lead vocals, and Stuff Christians Like author Jon Acuff joined Dave Ramsey’s organization as a staff writer. What does that mean for 2011? Here are five predictions:

Actors Kirk Cameron and Stephen Baldwin form an acting guild that produces only End Times dramas. Their straight-to-DVD thriller Omega 3! (also starring Gary Busey) becomes a break-out hit when viewers mistake it for a nutritional video series based on a brand new diet fad.



Chick-fil-A Opens on Sundays, with a Caveat You’ve been there before. Rolling out of the church parking lot in search of some grub, your stomach puts out a call for Chick-fil-A and your tongue happily co-signs the idea. But when you pull into the empty parking lot, you suddenly remember: It’s Sunday and Chick-fil-A is closed ... or is it? 2011 is the year Chick-fil-A puts an end to its almost 50-year old policy by opening its doors on Sundays for lunch. Like all good things, however, there is a catch. In order to sink your teeth into one of their delicious chicken sandwiches on the Lord’s Day, guests must present one of the following items: a weekend bulletin from a local church service, a tithe receipt from your church or an empty communion cup with sticky grape juice residue. Interestingly enough, by opening its doors on Sundays, Chickfil-A indirectly causes a spike in church attendance, while at the same time creating a seedy underground market for fake church bulletins.



Carmakers Jump on the Geometric Bandwagon

Despite great ratings from Consumer Reports, no one buys the vehicle because it’s named after the implement of Jesus’ death.

We had the same reaction you did when we first saw it. What in the name of Yugo is that box-looking thing doing on the road? That thing, of course, was the Nissan Cube. And following Nissan’s lead, other carmakers will hitch their rides on the threedimensional-shape bandwagon in 2011. Honda will be second to the market with their Honda Cone, billed as the first mid-size car to seat the passengers above the driver. While easy to park, it will destroy hundreds of overpasses and parking garages in its first week on the market. Close behind will be the Toyota Sphere, a bulbous-looking pod that will boast the best rollover rating ever. Lastly, in the “close but no cigar” category, Kia misfires when it targets the evangelical community with the Kia Kross. Despite great ratings from Consumer Reports, no one buys the vehicle because it’s named after the implement of Jesus’ death. And also because it gets terrible gas mileage.


Dreaming Becomes a Million-Dollar Industry Following the popularity of Christopher Nolan’s mind-exhausting thriller Inception, 2011 will see a slew of products and services coming on the scene to improve and enhance your dream life. In an attempt to make dreams more lifelike, bed makers will introduce pressure-sensitive mattresses that simulate car crashes and getting punched in the kidneys. Not to be outdone, Apple will unveil an app that not only lets you build dream storylines and scenery, but plants them into your dreams via your ear buds as you sleep. And thanks to some hard-working chemists in the pharmaceutical industry, even you insomniacs will be able to go two or three levels deep in your dream worlds with the release of new Ambien SCD (Stupid Crazy Dreams). Just don’t forget to set your alarm clock loud enough to hear the kick.


Harry Potter at Age 25

Author J.K. Rowling has hinted she’d be open to writing more books in the Harry Potter series. In 2011, the first of those books will come out: Harry Potter and the Burgeoning Quarter-Life Crisis. After defeating Voldemort, Harry finds himself drifting aimlessly along, realizing his best years happened in high school, and moaning to his tireless wife, Ginny, about “how quickly time passes.” Harry

is working as a midlevel auror, filling out magic TPS reports, juggling a new marriage, a challenging job and that letdown feeling everyone gets after college. Just when things start to look really bleak, Harry realizes he still knows magic and can pretty much make himself anything. The book ends by setting up a sequel: 2013’s Harry Potter and the Quest for a New Antagonist.




What an American writer learned about faith in Nairobi’s Mathare district by kelsey timmerman

The night is dark and all that is Nairobi’s Mathare slum is unseen: the valley lined with rusting tin shacks, the mother sleeping on a wooden bed with her foot on the floor to act as an early warning in case the nearby river happens to rise, the food scraps and plastic and cardboard and people in various stages of decomposition and degradation. Darkness makes the slums smell better. Behind a wall of sheet metal, a carefree whistle rises into the darkness, a puddle seeps out, forming tributaries of soap and islands of dirt. An arm darker than the night rises above the wall, its armpit washed by an invisible hand. Someone passes and says something. “What did they say?” I ask James, one of my hosts for my overnight stay in the slums. “They say that you are easy to see,” James says. I look down at my arms. They are covered in blond hair and all day enticed the children of Mathare to pet me. They glow. You may have heard of the slum of Kibera. Kibera is Africa’s second largest slum and appeared in the movie The Constant Gardener. Mathare is Nairobi’s other slum, home to more than 500,000, where only 5 percent of adults have formal jobs and 80 percent of kids don’t go to school. James is 16. He has a crooked-toothed smile and the beginnings of a mustache. We make small talk while waiting for his cousin, Thomas, to finish showering. Thomas is dirty from a soccer game that began with him expertly gliding past stampeding defenders and, after the sky opened, ended with him sliding and falling in the mud like a mere mortal. I watched the game with Thomas’ younger brother, Moses. Moses is too shy to speak to me, but his smile, equal parts top and bottom teeth, and his eyes speak volumes. When he beat me at thumb wrestling, he didn’t say anything—just beamed. When he pointed out a rainbow, he burst with pride. When the downpour

started, it was Moses who brought a banana leaf for me to hold over my head as a sort of umbrella. “When it rains,” James says, “the water is warmer.” The water isn’t actually warmer; it just feels like it. But it’s not my place to correct James. “Have you ever taken a warm water shower?” I ask. “Only in the rain,” James says.

Faith, Laundry and Mzungus I’ve come to Africa with a group shooting a documentary for Life in Abundance, a non-governmental organization (NGO) that helps churches in impoverished areas lift their communities out of poverty. The days are hot and exhausting, but it’s always the moments we stop to pray that make me sweat the most. When would it be my turn to lead the prayer? The last time I prayed, I think it was for a puppy. I was an altar boy in a Catholic church. I nearly burst into flames. Not because some higher power threatened to smite me, but because my buddy Matt sat up in the choir and made faces at me until my face exploded with redness. When this happened, I would rub my hamstring, acting like I had a cramp. After Mass, I would limp off to religion class. “Are you OK?” someone would ask. “Yep, just this darn hammy of mine keeps cramping,” I’d say, as if I was walking off the football field. The only thing about Sundays I looked forward to was the box of doughnuts before religion class. Going into this trip, I knew faith would be front and center, and at some point mine would be called into question. I had this dated and naïve idea that faithbased NGOs dangled food in front of the hungry and said, “Pray to our God and we’ll give you seconds.” I wasn’t sure what to do. Do I stay in the closet and hope I’m not called on to bless the food or share some spiritual insight? Or do I step off the plane and announce, “The heathen has arrived!” or state, “I don’t have faith in Jesus like you do”?


School for soccer. Thomas looks across the soccer field. The game is putting him through school: His mother couldn’t afford the tuition, but a coach saw him playing one day and recruited him.

“Huh?” I can’t hear James as I scrape the coconut broom on the concrete surrounding the toilet. “I thought white people were special,” he says. “That white people were perfect. Now I know they aren’t.”

Between Life and Death


Eventually, I was outed. One of the members of the group asked me, “Where do you stand on the whole faith thing?” I was honest. I told him about being an altar boy and the doughnuts, and how I hadn’t regularly attended church in more than 15 years. Then, I could relax when it was time to pray. One prayer stands out above all the rest. I was in a small shanty with Rosa, a single mother, a few of her six kids and Bruce, a youth pastor who lives near Chicago. Rosa’s biggest fear was that one of her children would step out her front door and be washed away when the rain turned the alley into a flash flood. Bruce had us bow our heads, and then he began to pray. By the time he was done, my eyes were watering. It wasn’t some spiritual revelation that hit me—it was just how beautiful and important Bruce’s words were. I don’t sit down with strangers or loved ones and express how thankful I am for them, how much hope I have for them and how much I love them. The passion, compassion and honesty with which Bruce prayed touched me. Bruce later told me he thought he had messed the prayer up and didn’t know how to pray in a context like that. But for me, Bruce’s prayer was like showering in the rain—it was warm, and I didn’t want it to end. The whistling stops and Thomas, 17, emerges from the shower, bringing with him the clean smell of soap. We spend the day cleaning Thomas’ corner of the slum, a dusty alley lined with single-room apartments. I expect a long walk ahead of us to fetch water, but it’s the rainy season, meaning the nearby cistern is full. Thomas hands a few schillings to the girl sitting on a rock next to the spigot. Nothing in the slums is free.


“When the water runs out here,” Thomas says, “we have to go a very far distance. When there’s no water, you can tell it. People look dirty. People smell dirty.” We start with laundry. Thomas lays out three plastic tubs—red, green, yellow. A pile of clothes sits in the first. Thomas picks up a bar of soap and starts scrubbing. He instructs me to rub the clothes on themselves in quick, short strokes. While Thomas methodically scrubs, I splash about. One by one, we move the pile to the middle bin and scrub them some more. The last bin assures all the soap is off, then we hang them on a line to dry. Never has a load of laundry encapsulated someone’s life more. It’s made up of Thomas’ school and soccer uniforms. Without the soccer uniform there would be no school uniform. Thomas’ mother can’t afford the $300 per year for school, but a coach saw him playing once and recruited him. He goes to school for free. We end with scrubbing the squat toilets hidden from view by doors on rusty hinges. The 11 other households in the alley share the toilets and each takes their turn cleaning them. Foreigners aren’t uncommon here. They roll up in vans to choruses of “How are you?” and chants of “Mzungu, mzungu!” Mzungu means “white person” in Swahili. Mzungus visit projects, some bringing aid and hope, and others— like the incomplete bridge that spans the river polluted to the color of orange Fanta—bring more questions: “Are you here to finish the bridge?” Mzungus wield clipboards and cameras. Kids fight for photographers’ focus and do their best to please. They ask questions like, “Do you want me to smile or cry?” as if mzungus only care about emotional extremes. “I never knew white people could do this,” James says.

Thomas, with his towel over his shoulder, leads the way back in the dark to the boys’ room. A homemade bunk bed takes up half the room and is hidden behind a blue sheet hanging from the ceiling. Sheets hide all the rough concrete walls. The room breathes: When someone enters, the sheets inhale. There is no electricity, although Thomas is working on changing that. He has run wires from the main line on the street but is waiting for things to settle before he completes the install. The electric company just raided Mathare, passing out fines to anyone who was “borrowing” service like Thomas. Thomas completes some minor repairs on a gas camping lantern, and then a flame throws our shadows onto the wall. Life in the slums is a lot like camping out. Joseph, one of Thomas’ friends, joins us and suggests we go for a walk. Thomas has his earbuds in, listening to Akon on his MP3 player while reading a pocket-guide titled Physics Made Easy. He tells us to go ahead. James, Joseph, Moses and I head out into the night. We join the shoppers browsing markets lit by candles. We pass two girls walking hand in hand. The one leading the other is maybe 2—the other is barely toddling. A big box speaker sits alongside the road. We can feel it before we see it. “It’s a funeral,” Joseph says. “You give them a few schillings and you join them in dancing. They will be out here all night.” At the end of the road, there is an open space—black and oddly empty. At first I think nothing of it. James, Joseph and I are chatting, and I look to find Moses. He’s a few feet away, standing still. He stares across the street into the void, and his shoulders quiver just enough to reveal he’s sobbing. “What’s the matter with Moses?” I ask. “Bad things happened here,” Joseph says. “After the election in 2007 was decided for the Kikuyu, the Luo caused trouble. At first it wasn’t in Mathare. Then one night it was. There were homes there. Let’s go.”

Moses and Thomas lost a brother in the post-election violence. Luo gangs attacked members of the Kikuyu tribe, to which Moses and Thomas’ family belonged. The Luo gangs went into Mathare and asked questions in their native tongue. If you answered, you were left alone; if not, your house was burnt or you were beaten or killed. Thomas could speak Luo well enough to fool the gangs and protect his other family members. He answered the life and death questions correctly. Moses turns away, hiding his tears.

Praying with the Prophetess “I have a property north of Nairobi,” the Prophetess says. “In my vision I saw the sun

and I joke about her son: “What’s he doing in there?” But I’m not going to joke my way out. She comes across a picture she hasn’t shown me yet: two mountains divided by a sea. She picks up the Kenyan flag and places it on the mountain on the right and then the American flag on the one on the left. She looks at me as if to say, “Doesn’t it all make sense now?” Then she picks up each flag and puts them together like a little girl making Barbie and Ken kiss. I fear there are more Bibles with different pictures and that this could go on all night. In a moment of desperation, I do something with the hopes of moving things along. “Hallelujah?” I say. It’s the first time I’ve ever said the word. As

IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH ME THAT I DON’T HAVE THE FAITH THEY DO WHEN I’M SO BLESSED? coming up over my property, and there was a group of mzungus building a house on it. When I see your group come—when I saw you—I knew it was God.” She looks to the heavens. The Prophetess foresaw my arrival. It’s not her first grand proclamation. She also claims her yellow sash draped over her Crayola purple dress makes her bulletproof. Until she’s shot, who am I to say otherwise? The Prophetess is Thomas and Moses’ mom. We’ve joined her for dinner, but the food is absent. Thomas sits beside me, translating. “Pastor, reverend, deacon, elder,” the Prophetess says, explaining the spiritual hierarchy as she puts her hand at chest level. “Prophetess,” she puts her hand at shoulder level. “Almighty”—her hand is at head level. The Prophetess appears much younger than her 50 years. Her eyes are alive with energy. Her smile is pink and white and genuine. “Too bad I’m a mzungu with no money,” I say. She has a Bible in Kikuyu and one in Swahili. She flips through the pages one at a time, explaining each picture. “The ark.” She points at the ark being carried. “You know the ark?” Of course I know the ark, I think, as I nod. I saw Indiana Jones. “The ark is in my church.” At first I think she means this figuratively, but then I look into her eyes. The whites are serious; the blacks are serious. She looks at me as if I would need no reason to build her home other than that she has control of the ark. “Hallelujah!” she says and flips the page. When she is done with one Bible, she goes through the other; and when she is done with the other, she repeats. She explains the significance of each picture. One is a picture of Moses

strength it gives them to push through circumstances I’m not sure I could. This is my meal to bless, and there is no running from it. Back in my altar boy days, I won an award— a framed picture of the Last Supper—for praying. I could rattle off “Our Father,” “Hail Mary” and even the “Apostle’s Creed” with the best of them. From the page, through the eyes, to the brain. Some of the prayers are still there, covered in dust, right next to “To be or not to be” from my sophomore year of high school. Dusty memorized verses won’t cut it now. Too often folks like me dismiss faith-based NGOs, as if their compassion isn’t as pure as ours: “We’re not trying to win souls; we’re trying to help our fellow man just because we’re nice like that.” After seeing Life in Abundance in action and hearing Bruce pray, I realized their compassion is more efficient. Because they share a faith with the people they serve, there is an automatic connection.


Day in the market. A woman sells fruit in Mathare. Only 5 percent of adults in Mathare have formal jobs, and 80 percent of kids in the slum don’t attend school.

soon as it leaves my lips, I realize it doesn’t sound right as a question. It backfires: She becomes even more energized and begins to talk in tongues. When our food finally appears, she asks me to bless the dinner. I hesitate. My first thought is to be honest: “Blessing dinner isn’t really my thing.” That’s what I would have told the Life in Abundance group. I’m nervous. I doubt my coming clean about my faith would weaken their own, but I want their faith to be bulletproof and I don’t want to do anything that could change that. The truth is, I covet their faith and the

The Prophetess intends to pray all night. She’s excited about it. Thomas smiles when he talks about Jesus. They literally live in a valley of shadow and death, in poverty I will never know. Is something wrong with me that I don’t have the faith they do when I’m so blessed? I clasp my hands and think about Moses’ rainbow, showers in the rain, Thomas answering life and death questions. Is the honesty and compassion with which Bruce prayed within me? I search for it. I bow my head. For the first time in my life, I really pray. Kelsey Timmerman is the author of Where Am I Wearing? (Wiley). He lives in Indiana with his wife, Annie, and daughter, Harper. He blogs at


A NAR ROW ESC APE BY carl kozlowski

Aron Ralston was trapped in a crevasse for 127 hours, only freeing himself by an act of crazy desperation. the story is so extreme, james franco jumped at the chance to portray it. Imagine you’re enjoying a day of rock climbing in the middle of the desert. You’ve hopped in your car alone, hoping for solitude, and you’re just cocky enough you didn’t feel the need to leave a note or tell anyone where you were going. But what if that test went way beyond a day of sweat and exercise and wound up risking your life? What thoughts would race through your head? Would you find faith in God, build on it or lose it? And if somehow you were able to make it out alive, how


would it affect the rest of your existence? Heavy questions to be sure, and ones most of us will never have to face. But Aron Ralston was forced to stare each one of those quandaries down seven years ago, when a boulder landed on his right arm during a solitary climbing excursion, trapping him for more than five days before he finally had to do the unthinkable: cut his forearm off in order to escape and survive. That ordeal turned Ralston into a worldwide celebrity, leading to his best-selling book, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, and a new movie aptly titled 127 Hours. Starring James Franco as Ralston, the movie is the latest unconventional modern classic from director Danny Boyle, who has developed a reputation as one of the world’s most eclectic filmmakers through a body of work that’s ranged from Trainspotting, to The Beach to the Best Picture-winning

chuck zlotnick

Left: James Franco stars as Aron Ralston in the film 127 Hours, which tells the true story of Ralston’s escape after being trapped by a boulder for five days and forced to cut off his arm. global smash Slumdog Millionaire. Resting almost entirely on a brave and daring performance by Franco, 127 Hours is a story of overcoming the odds, of human ingenuity, of the fragility of life and that desperate, overwhelming determination to survive. It’s an inspiring story, but not exactly one for the faint of heart. “People who walk into the film are going to remember this is the guy who cut his arm off, but I hope they’ll be happy by the end,” says Ralston, who now uses an artificial limb with a prosthetic hook for his hand. “It was the most intense pain I’ll ever experience, but I grinned from ear to ear because I was gonna get out of there.” Ralston managed to capture much of his entrapment with a small camera he’d brought along on his hike. Expecting to die, he hoped somehow the camera would be discovered and sent back to his mother as a final goodbye. Ralston had only shown the real-life footage to his immediate family until he got word Franco was preparing to play him in the film. “I actually got to see the real videos Aron made,” Franco says in a separate conversation. “He’s told his story to hundreds of thousands of people, but on video, it’s more pure because it’s not Aron telling of the experience—it’s him in the middle and not knowing if he’s gonna get out and have a happy ending. “He believed he was going to die and was making messages up until an hour before he escaped,” Franco continues. “You could tell there was a lot going on underneath, that he was determined to put up this dignified kind of demeanor so his mother and father could watch him without seeing him losing it.” Prior to his fateful trip, Ralston had been the kind of lone-wolf daredevil who went wherever he pleased, often ignoring calls from his mother and leaving his friends behind for days at a time. So when he climbed into a crevasse, more than 100 feet down between giant rock formations miles from civilization, it was but one instance in a long line of Ralston tempting fate. The boulder that slipped and crushed his arm, however, was the consequence Ralston never really imagined would happen. “First he panics and drinks most of his water,” Boyle says of those moments after the fall. “Then the next thing he says is, ‘Think!’” Ralston had to figure out how to ration a tiny amount of food and make the 350 milliliters of water that remained in his water bottle last as long as possible. When that water ran out, he had to build up the nerve to drink his own urine

to stay alive—a horrific fact that forms the basis for the film’s most twisted moment of comic relief, when Franco takes a swig and winds up declaring, “That’s no Slurpee!” The Slurpee line was something Ralston really said, and thanks to the incredible amount of footage documenting his experience, so are the film’s other gasp-inducing moments. But the film leavens its most difficult scene—while it is cringe-worthy, the sequence depicting the amputation, takes up only three minutes of the film’s 90-minute run-time and cuts back and forth (no pun intended)—with plenty of touching and deeply human ones. Ralston is shown thinking back on his life—about the girlfriend he largely ignored and allowed to drift away, about the calls he didn’t pick up from his own mother because he was “too busy” to deal with them. It’s in these flashbacks Ralston attains a reckoning of his life that ultimately enlightens and frees him, forcing him to understand the

horrifying experience without ruining the film’s seemingly uplifting goal? “It was really an epiphany, a eureka moment,” Ralston recalls. “I knew within an hour, right after the accident happened. I said out loud, ‘You’re gonna have to cut your arm off.’ But it was a very deliberate process: On the second day I figured out how to do the tourniquet. The third day I tried sawing through my arm to no avail. The fourth day I was like: ‘Aha! I did it!’ “The knife was too dull. The riddle was, if you can’t cut through the bone, how do you get through? You break the bone,” Ralston continues. “I figured out through this that the boulder isn’t what’s really trapping me—it’s the knife that’s too dull. The boulder isn’t the problem, it’s the solution. I can get at the boulder and its viselike grip there to break my bone, and then cut through my arm. “I was smiling through it. It took four minutes to break the bone and then exactly an hour

“He believed he was gonna die And was making messages up until an hour before he escaped.” —James Franco selfishness with which he was living. He also disconcertingly starts having visions of his future, particularly of the young son he doesn’t yet have but feels he was meant to create as a key part of his existence. “[Aron] was 27, not thinking about being a father,” Boyle says. “But he knew it was his lineage, a connection to the future that we all seek. We all want to pass on life and try to do it decently—that’s what life is about. Knowing he had those thoughts vividly was a wonderful discovery, and it dictated the rest of the film, the style of the film and how we could come in and out of the first- and third-person points of view.” Boyle wove those visions into the film to help break the claustrophobic tension of the film and give viewers a breather from Ralston’s ordeal, but the moments serve to add a deeply emotional resonance as well. And as Ralston teeters on the edge of death before finally figuring out how to save himself, the film powerfully shows the real-life people he thought of along the way. The undeniable question remains, however: How did Ralston finally decide to risk amputating his limb? And how did Franco and Boyle manage to find a way to depict that

from the time I broke the first bone until the time I was actually free. It was just a matter of a few more bones, breathing and gathering myself, collecting my gear and grabbing the camera, going, ‘I’m outta here!’” That was the reality of the moment, but Franco and Boyle had to convey those 64 minutes in a much shorter way that wouldn’t completely alienate their audience. Did they manage? Well, a few people fainted at early screenings. The fake arm they built specifically for the scene probably had something to do with it.


Left: Franco filming in a crevasse similar to the one Ralston was trapped in. There were three different prosthetic arms—complete with nerves and veins—used for the amputation scene.

“Inside they built all the musculature, nerves and veins so we could just go at it,” Franco says. “We had three of these arms, and I could do long takes cutting at it. I just did it and didn’t pass out. After the first take I told Danny he got a very good performance there—that’s how I’d really behave because I was really lightheaded.” While the movie effectively conveys the horrific decision to amputate and unflinchingly depicts the process (and indeed much of the film is spent in anticipation of the moment), its power still resides in the inner journey Ralston underwent. Thinking back on how the event changed his lifestyle, the 34-year-old notes he spent the first five years after his recovery pushing the limits again to prove to himself he was still a complete person. But in the past couple of years, after meeting and marrying his wife and the birth of their son, Ralston has come to realize he has a greater responsibility now to stay alive and play things a little bit safer. His connections to his own family and his parents are both front and center in his mind these days. “I think my sense of faith was strengthened, my worldview was affirmed,” Ralston says. “In the physical world, there are spiritual energies beyond everything that connect us all. My physical self was stripped away, but what was left were the connections with people in my life. When we are connected through love to other people is when we’re most alive [and] have our greatest sense of resolve and courage. “If you’re disconnected from that, which I’ve


his films has shifted from the early, nihilistic approach of Trainspotting and Shallow Grave. “There was a movie I did a few years back called Millions that changed everything about my career direction,” Boyle explains. “I grew up a very strict, traditional Catholic. That story was written by a guy who remains a Christian. I loved the story. It felt very personal to me because it follows a boy in a very dangerous situation who is saved by his belief that he’s talking to the saints. That film’s sense of joy and wonder made me decide to work on films with a light to them rather than darkness. I’m not religious. The answers in some sense will always be beyond us, and that’s fine. But we are bound together in a way that’s extraordinary and we can achieve great things together, and I feel that we’re not the finished article.” Ultimately, this is the message of 127 Hours: Even when we feel most alone, we have a connection to others that keeps us going and drives our will to live. The film sticks in the minds of its viewers not because of its gruesome moments, but its most kind and humane ones. It’s a tale of massive transformation on a small, personal scale—of an individual’s life changing forever, over the course of five days. “When my mom first saw this, she was holding my hand,” Ralston recalls. “The amputation scene is over and we all made it through, but as I hike out and the music builds, my mom’s squeezing my hand so hard I think I’m losing my other arm. We’re involuntarily rocking in our seats, and she’s going: ‘Thank you, God! Thank you, God!’ That’s what a beautiful gift this is. That’s what Danny did for me.” He takes a moment to wipe his eyes. And then, Ralston smiles. “They got it right. I just wish they’d used more Phish music.”

“When we are connected through love to other people is when we’re most alive [and] have our greatest sense of resolve and courage.” —aron ralston also been in my life, you’re closest to depression and suicide. Being most alive in my 20s was about being closest to death. That’s when I felt invigorated. Now it’s about being closest to my relationships and family. If there’s any arc in my life, there’s that shift that’s happening and continues to happen.” It was those themes of mortality and relationship that Franco says he drew on most. Dressed in a plaid shirt and jeans, with a thin mustache hanging over his lip because he has “to look like a 1920s mobster for a small role,” his thick New York accent at moments can be as challenging to follow as Boyle’s British tones, yet his enthusiasm is still obvious. “Certainly that kind of material and the way we approached it was very appealing to me,” says Franco, waving his arms expressively throughout each answer. “Examining a person by stripping away everything he’s used to in life, and [he] has to face life with just the essentials, figuring out what life is made of and staring death in the face.” For Boyle, 127 Hours is part of a larger shift within his personal motivations, as the tone of

The 127 Hours Trailer Don’t know what this thing is? Check out page 6 for instructions, and then watch this preview for 127 Hours.


Gage Young

Dispelling myths and redeeming rumors

a realistic guide to love by Adam and Chrissy Jeske

What true intimacy looks like at every stage Love. It’s a word that brings out the sappy in some, the shivers in others and a steely-eyed determination in still others. For everything it is (and everything it isn’t), love is rarely portrayed very realistically. Most of our pop culture—which, really, is where many of us have learned what love “is”—depicts love either at the beginning, during that stage of allconsuming romance, or at the end, in the final throes of soul-crushing monogamy. But we don’t live every day in the extremes; like so many things, love is simultaneously more complicated and simpler than we think. Love is mostly about the mundane, everyday, pragmatic details. This realistic guide to love offers tips and advice on the nitty-gritty in every period of romance, from those early dates, through the “I do’s,” then on to the first child and the inevitably challenging long haul. We don’t want you to give into rom-com fantasies—but we also don’t want to crush your spirits. Our credentials? We’ve been married for more than 10 years. We have two kids. And we still love each other.


d at i n g Call it “courting” for the Victorian allure. Call it “chronically hanging out.” Call it “mate-hunting.” Or just call it dating. Christmas is over, and romance is in the air as the Big Day of Red, White and Roses approaches. Throughout the years, some have kissed dating goodbye, while others have kissed marriage goodbye. But dating does give you a chance to check people out, see whether you might be a match or if you find each other annoying. On the other hand, chronic short-term dating holds its own challenges and risks, including an unhealthy and unhelpful consumer attitude to relationships, less regard for the needs of the other person and more temptation to touch where you shouldn’t. If you do decide to date, keep a few things in mind. First off, don’t be Seinfeld. Over the course of that old sitcom, Jerry, George and even Kramer dropped more than a hundred girlfriends, most for little things like shushing or napkin-doodling. Get over these. Realize you will annoy one another. Whatever—love isn’t about finding someone who meets your laundry list of a thousand perfect details. Next, learn the Mars and Venus stuff—men and women are different. These aren’t straightjackets for how you will (or should) always behave. But you might as well get familiar with the basics and then apply them (with discernment and in addition to other filters, such as personality profiles and love languages) to help you better understand each other. That brings us to communication. Do it. Talk about everything. Talk about little things, like the first time you hold hands. Talk about past relationships, current needs and future hopes. Talk about what relationships you saw growing up. It feels weird, but starting with the end in mind helps you start off right. And as you read on, date on and love on, you’ll see that all this is key. The longer you are in a relationship, the more likely it is you will hurt each other badly. You and the one you love most will probably cause more pain in each other’s lives than in the lives of the other 6 billion people on the planet. Ask forgiveness often, and forgive even more. Because you’re a jerk too. Oh, and on purity—it’s very difficult to put hard and fast, works-foreveryone rules on this. But waiting until marriage to have sex isn’t about following some outmoded legalistic rule so the virgin bride gets to wear a white dress. It’s about following the caring advice of a God who knows what’s in our own best interest. Having sex feels like a secret and momentary thing at the time, but it’s like getting a 12-inch tattoo across your heart—it will affect you and anyone you’re intimate with for your lifetime. That said, if you have already joined the ranks of the non-virgins, it’s not too late to have an honest talk with God—and then your loved one—about the baggage you’re carrying. Wherever you’re at, give sex the due diligence of commitment it deserves.

newl y we d s Marriage is a funny little ceremony with a lot of special archaic words and rituals and costumes, but at the end of it, your life is different. Dramatically. You have committed to live with someone, love them and serve them for the rest of your living days. This changes your responsibilities and roles not just with this person, but toward the world and God. So do the deed, have the party, dance a little dance and then what? The honeymoon. Make your honeymoon a significant time to reflect on who you are together. An eight-day honeymoon may not be sufficient time, and maybe a super-luxurious hotel isn’t the best location. You can mentally rope off the first three months of your life, wherever you live, as time to adjust. It can be weird and hard to try to adjust when


surrounded by all the same people expecting you to be just the same, especially if you’re on the young side. But don’t escape altogether from community—you will want people you can be honest with and encouraged by. We had the chance to spend our first married months at an intentional Christian community, so we still had healthy community around us, and worked with refugees for three months—a perfect way to start a life of giving.


he sermon at our wedding was all about how love is work, how it takes a lot of sweat equity to build a good, strong marriage. It seemed a bit odd, counter to all the expectations of syrupy sweet gushing that often comes through before the vows. But nothing is more appropriate and more needed at such a time. There was a lot of crying during our first year of marriage. There’s so much to assimilate mentally, so much to adjust to socially, so much to experience physically, that it can be very trying as you get going. Expect to lose some friends and gain others, but work to not drift from your single friends. They don’t know what you’re going through unless you explain it; they haven’t lived it yet. Don’t blame them for what they haven’t experienced. You haven’t experienced being single at their point in life either. Listen to each other. Keep doing much of the same stuff together, and figure out what looks different between you now that there’s an elephant in the room. (But don’t call your new spouse an elephant.) Sex. This paragraph will be read at a significantly higher rate than all the others because we all want to know more about sex. It is all of

two paths diverged in a wood ... Laying our dreams down for another is contrary to most messages we hear today. But if you can’t make sacrifices for your loved one—if you can’t say, “My spouse is more important to me than my dream”—your love will get slammed as you face the tough questions of life. Questions like who will pay the bills if you both want to go back to school? What if babies come when you have fulfilling jobs but also want someone to stay home? How will you balance a job offer in Seattle with family in Kentucky? What if you dreamed of moving to Europe, but the years are ticking onward in any direction but there? Make your dreams and plans together early. Be honest now, so you’re not surprised later by warring wishes. Talk about how many kids you want, how far you want to live from home and how important your career is. Then expect these to change. As they do, keep talking to see how things fit, and say how you feel about it. Be honest with your desires, but also willing to give. When two paths diverge in a wood, you need to take just one. Together.

us, naked, vulnerable, excited, scared, longing, worried and more. It is beautiful but hidden and private but shared. Perhaps the grandest theme in our culture today, it is both more complicated and more simple than we’re often led to believe. You might blow each other’s minds all the time, right from the start. Or it may start off very badly (which is much more likely). But that’s part of the beauty of sex—the co-discovery, the knitting together, the already-and-not-yet of “one flesh.” So enjoy the goofy ride that it is, whatever route you take together.

s l u m p s


r u t s

This is where the “marriage is work” stuff really ramps up—everybody has rough patches in their marriage. You get tired. You see their mistakes. There are low-grade, grinding annoyances for both of you. “Date your mate.” These words have come to us from a bunch of wise, well-married folks. Another pithy saying explains why it’s so important: “Familiarity breeds contempt.” It’s easy to start to forget one another, to lose sight of what brought you together. That’s a problem, as it’s often what keeps you together. You must be disciplined in having fun. Make sure it happens, and make sure it’s really fun. Money causes tons of marital strife. Commit to viewing money as the Bible does. That means no greed, no coveting, no hoarding, no waste and no selfishness. But rather give, save, steward, enjoy, share and use money. When you take the Bible seriously on money, it sets some pretty significant parameters for how you can think about and relate to resources. Talk openly about your spending choices, consider your

money yours together (not owned by the one whose name is on the paycheck), and when there is discord about finances, err on the side of loving your spouse (after explaining your perspective) rather than squeezing the life out of your principles. Talk about your life, even when it seems boring. Verbally processing lets your spouse know he or she is valuable enough to be in on the decisions and emotions you face during the day. And listen to your spouse talking about his or her life, even when it seems boring. They’ve trusted you with the emotional energy of telling you about what happened today, so listen. Learn to ask good questions. Learn to repeat back what they’ve said in ways that say you heard between the lines and you care. Talk about temptations, and don’t put yourself in temptation’s way. Have close same-sex friends who you can talk to about temptations and challenges. Watch your attitudes and subtle cues in any relationships with the opposite sex, and give particular attention to ones your spouse doesn’t share. In the same way you aim to stay faithful to one another, stay connected to church and to a community that supports your faith and your commitment to one another. Find a couple who has walked the walk a few more years or stages than you. Soak in wisdom and perspective by osmosis, then ask questions of those who share your worldview and priorities and are happily married. There’s no shame in finding a small group not just to be a perfect Christian, but because you’re really needy. Pay attention to what makes your spouse feel loved, and do it, even if it seems trite or unromantic. Ask what he or she likes—don’t assume you’ve got this all figured out. Those roses you’ve been pouring your


you got something to say to me? (How to Fight Well)


Remember, You’re on the Same Team


You Can Stop—Really!


In the middle of a fight, it’s easy to forget that not only do you love this person, you also ultimately want the same things. Remind yourself that you’re in this thing together, and try to figure out how you can help each other get what you both need and want.

You don’t have to fight and fight until you come to a resolution (or one of you gives up). Take a timeout—especially if one or both of you are internal processors. Write down your thoughts, pray for one another separately and then come back together to talk it out.

Avoid Reliving the Same Fights Again and Again If you’re not satisfied with where the fight ends, you’re going to have it again in a few days. If you hit an impasse, don’t just give up. Set a time to talk later, then come to a conclusion you can point back to. If you can’t agree, bring in a mentor or counselor to help.

savings into might mean far less to her than a foot rub, an evening snuggle in front of a movie or taking her turn washing dishes. And he might really desire more or different sex, or he might be happier if you played tennis together, read to each other, cooked more nice meals or kept a cleaner car.

l i ttle

p e o p le

Many non-parents believe life ends with parenting. Not end like you’ll die, just end like the You who had purpose, direction, career, style, humor, friends and romance will dissolve into an unrecognizable smear in the parking lot of Babies “R” Us. Meanwhile, two characters from a movie you never chose to watch will enter your home. These intruders (“Mommy and Daddy”) will hold your life and self hostage. As if through the slats of the closet where the real You is tied up, you watch Mommy sit around telling your friends about stroller brands, bowel movements, childbirth and Winnie the Pooh. Mommy goes to Mommy Groups. She worries about diaper rash and teething and school districts. She has nothing to say to single men. She shops for little plastic cups of chopped peaches and SpongeBob fruit gummy snacks and calls it enough of an outing for a day. When she climbs into bed, she squirms to the far edge of the bed and shrieks: “Don’t touch me! I’ve been touched all day. All I want is a little sleep!” Mommy definitely, assuredly, is not any fun. Meanwhile, Daddy goes off, tired, to his nine-to-five job, stopping on the way home to buy diapers, frozen dinners and butt-rash cream. He comes in to find Mommy crying in baggy sweats, a bucket of board books overturned on his favorite chair, baby wipes strewn down the hallway, a Johnny Jump Up blocking his escape to the bathroom. He picks up Howling Baby, who wails louder, poops and is promptly snatched from his hands by teary Mommy. He just wants to leave, even if for an extended research project in the Sahara. Daddy and Mommy rarely look at each other’s faces. When they do, they talk about Baby. It becomes hard to do anything that might lead to another baby. Parenting doesn’t have to be this way. You, your free and joyful life, and your romance can live on, and even thrive, if you know what to expect and how to tackle it. You will talk about your offspring. A lot. It’s inevitable. Embrace this, and let it bind you and your spouse together. Parenting has a steep learning curve, but it’s one of the best classrooms about God and life


you will ever encounter. Your spouse is there to help you process the day’s lessons. It is also inevitable that your child will be with you, often right in the middle of you. Get used to it. Don’t wait for the baby to be out of the room to show your love. Demonstrate love to your spouse through any and all means available to you—repeating baby babble to elicit giggles, carrying out the trash, folding laundry. These can take on a surprisingly romantic glow amidst the mayhem.


ake your life in your own hands. Don’t allow parenting to consume you. Keep those dates coming. Swap babysitting with someone—your child really will survive without you for an hour, an evening and even a week as time passes. Or take baby with. Children travel. Newborns, especially, are remarkably like purses—they don’t care at all about culture shock, new languages or different homes as long as they’ve got you holding them. Starting young will get you trained to continue family adventures as they grow. And don’t scrap your friendships—with other parents, with your small group, with single and childless friends. A child really is so much better off when raised by a village. One reason parenting feels like a frightening black hole before we become parents ourselves is that our culture does a rotten job of facilitating relationships outside our own life stage. We all need people besides just our own spouses for processing doubts, fears, questions, hopes and all that. Don’t become an island—let other people watch your children; host small group at your house and let the kids be part of it; don’t feel like you have to leave for bedtime, but let your kids fall asleep at a friend’s house while you stay up late talking and laughing together—just like you used to.

t h e

b i g

d .

“I hate divorce,” says God in Malachi 2:16. Who wouldn’t? Divorce is a messy, miserable experience. And yet it happens. A lot. When you see persistent problems creeping into your relationship, get help early. Lose any stigma you have about asking a pastor, a mentor couple or a professional counselor for help. There are many happy couples today because they found a good counselor (or several). Divorce is not a possibility any couple should try to face on their own. Divorce can arise from the most painful experiences you can imagine: affairs, addictions, pornography, infertility, mental illness, changes in faith. You may lose the job you always wanted, you may hit a quarter-life crisis, you may feel every ounce of attraction you felt for your spouse has rusted away. Imagine these now, talk about them, pray about them and plan against them. It won’t stop everything, but it will help. Be ready to forgive each other; make it easy to confess to each other. When life takes terribly hard turns, our tendency is to blame someone. You’ll likely blame someone nearby: either your spouse or God. If you blame your spouse, you load him or her with unreasonable expectations, shame, nagging, hate and a load of unproductive guilt that serves only to drive you apart. So here’s some radical advice: blame God. He can take it. Cry on God’s shoulder, tell Him what hurts and let Him have it—literally. He’s big enough. That phrase “God hates divorce” does not mean “God hates you.” God loves you, no matter what. If you live past your 20s and step outside your house, you will meet people going through divorce. Divorce can feel like having a limb torn off, like wanting to commit murder, like losing a best friend or like failing. It can also feel like you put on a goblin mask and none of your friends—especially the churchy ones—will talk to you. A friend facing divorce needs your listening ears more than your advice-blabbing

mouth. Be available to listen, and learn to listen well. Try stating the obvious rather than ignoring it: “You must be going through a really tough time. Let me know if there’s any way I can help you out.”

i n

i t

t o

w i n

i t

As the years tick by, some couples settle into an amazing bliss. Those six people are fortunate. The rest of us will run into epic personal struggles, both within our marriages and beyond. We don’t learn in school how to deal with miscarriages, debt, depression or unfaithfulness. These serious needs underscore the importance for deep community, solid mentors, excellent communication skills and habits, grace, patience, forgiveness, conflict resolution and big faith. One piece of advice that has proven invaluable was to remind ourselves that we’re on the same team. If we’re talking about something, even if it’s where one person really hurt the other, we’re trying to work it out and move forward together. We’re also learning to be gentle on each other. We all react differently to stress—some become militant commanders, some look cool while choking on internal tension, some lose sleep, some sleep more, some cry, some can’t handle seeing tears. Learn how you each react to stress, and be prepared for your spouse’s reaction, as well as to tame your more damaging reactions. From the first days of our marriage, we had a saying: “The honeymoon never ends.” It leads to adventures and laughter, memories and romance, optimism and joy. It is the long-term effect of the “date your mate” principle. You might not have two weeks in the Cayman Islands, but a picnic of bread, cheese and chocolate next to spring

conversations to have on a date

blossoms is pretty fine too. Build traditions to encourage and facilitate • If you could be an expert on what really matters—assign anything, what would it be? an evening for a tea/coffee/ hot cocoa date at home. Make • What have you learned lately that’s interesting space, time and a routine for about God? prayer together. Read a book that can motivate your love, • If you/I could change one realistic thing about for God and each other. yourself/myself this year, Keep finding mentors a what would it be? stage or two ahead of you. • Where do you want to be in Don’t just talk about your life— five years? talk about theirs. Hear their struggles and how they work • What have you read lately? through them, from talking • Who do you know who you to their kids about puberty, want to imitate? Why? to parenting angry teenagers • Do you have any regrets? to caring for a spouse with a terminal illness. Love feeds on the times you stop and thank God for the precious person you have the privilege of sharing life with. So thank God. At the same time, don’t let your focus only and always be on each other. There’s a world of need out there, and some of the finest marriages around are in the thick of it, serving side by side. And perhaps some day you’ll be that married couple with the smilewrinkled faces whose lives after umpteen dozen years together still shine with such love that the word “awww” just slips out of your mouth when he reaches for her hand.

Watch the Essential Jonathan Edwards video. Use your smartphone to scan the QR code. standard data rates may apply

His views still inspire men like Joshua Harris, Mark Driscoll and Rick Warren. Compact, with clear explanations of portions of Edward's own writings and sermons, as well as application for today, this five book series will give you an essential understanding of this giant of the faith!

Available in print or e-book format at your favorite book retailer or at

BY ADAM SMITH, with additional reporting by serena noonan photos by jeremy cowart

How a local phenomenon became a global movement ... without losing its roots There is a cultural condition very particular to Australia and New Zealand known as “tall poppy syndrome.� This is the social peer pressure to cut people down to size, to never let people brag, boast or succeed in a way that seems too supercilious. Great achievements can be celebrated, but not too much. It seems strange, then, in this setting to find a local church that has become internationally famous, pumping out books, conferences, albums and curricula. Since its beginnings in a public school hall in Northwestern Sydney in 1983, Hillsong Church has grown to more than 20,000 attendees each week. It has also exported its brand across the globe, with Hillsong churches


founders Brian and Bobbie Houston—credits with keeping the ministry in check. “One of the greatest strengths is we live in Australia,” Houston says. “The culture here has been a blessing when it comes to keeping us grounded.” “There are definitely no divas and prima donnas,” says Luke Webb, the band’s tour manager. “We cut down any tall poppies before they get too big. We don’t have the best musicians. The way we grow is because we are all mates, we all know each other’s faults and we all know where we have come from.” The environment has also helped Houston retain his identity in the midst of what some would consider Christian celebrity. “I have to step into this thing and realize it’s God’s grace that does it. I don’t have to walk in anyone else’s shoes,” Houston says. “I don’t have to sing like Chris Tomlin, I don’t have to grow a goatee like Dave Crowder or anyone else.” Another built-in check to tall poppy syndrome is the fact that the members of Hillsong rotate on a semi-regular basis, as members pursue other ministries within the church, time with family or move into a different music collective within Hillsong. “The culture is about bringing through the next generation. No one is threatened—I consider it my job to find out who can replace me,” says Annie Garratt, the vocal training pastor at Hillsong and a member of United. “United isn’t about one person,” Webb echoes. ”Whenever someone steps aside, it keeps going.”

Reluctant Stars

(l-r) Matt crocker, Joel Houston, Jonathon “J.D.” Douglass, Jad Gillies

throughout Europe and North America, services broadcast to 160 countries and Hillsong conferences drawing as many as 28,000 people. In the midst of all this is music. Hillsong’s worship has produced more than 50 gold and platinum records worldwide. Hillsong United, the church’s rock-style band, has debuted albums at number-one on the Australian charts. United’s stage shows have drawn thousands and spawned multiple DVDs. Their last album, Across the Earth: Tear Down the Walls, claimed high spots on charts all over the world, and their new album, Aftermath (out Feb. 15), is expected to do the same. All of this stands in contrast to Australia’s tendency to put in their place anyone who is getting a bit too haughty. And it’s this exact social tendency that United creative director Joel Houston—the son of Hillsong

Houston has been brought up within the Hillsong phenomenon. He has seen it grow from a fledgling church plant to a ministry marketed and spread across the globe. Yet, in the midst of this, he had no aspirations of finding himself in the role he does now, touring the world and appearing before thousands of people. “I grew up with no desire to do Christian music,” he says. “I’ve always, especially when I was younger, been really insecure. It’s crazy to look back on what God’s done.” Houston is still uncomfortable with the idea of Christian celebrity and the spotlight. From being the heir apparent to one of the world’s most high-profile ministry couples to gaining acclaim in his own right with United, Houston says he has constantly felt in over his head. “That’s been my story,” he says. “It’s a story of being thrown in the deep end and learning to swim. And we are swimming in a river of grace.” Despite his lack of desire to do Christian music and reside in the spotlight, Houston has become one of the most recognizable names in Christian music and the evangelical church at large. In typical Australian fashion, he’s quick to downplay the very public nature of his role. “The greatest challenge in all of it is to remember it’s not about you,” Houston says. “I never desired to be a worship leader. I always felt like I didn’t have the ability. There’s this reluctance.” Reluctance aside, Houston’s role in United, and the ministry itself, formed almost by accident. During a Hillsong summer camp, a group of young people felt the need to begin praying. “Some of our most amazing God encounters were at a summer camp,” says Jonathon “J.D.” Douglass, one of United’s songwriters.


“The location is just on the most beautiful coast line. In that valley you are away from the normal busyness and the distractions of life. You are in God’s beautiful creation. It’s just a recipe. We [often] try to put God in a box, [summer camp] is breaking these walls and [being] who we are.” “We went down to the big tent,” Houston says. “Everyone started gathering and praying. No one started the prayer meeting and things just started gaining momentum.” Earlier in the day, Houston and a group of young people had worked on learning songs from a Delirious? album. In the midst of the impromptu prayer service, they began to play. “We worked hard learning these songs,” Houston says. “We were playing these songs that were fresh.” According to Houston, the worship service that followed laid the foundations for United as young people from teenagers to their mid-20s began to join in the songs he and the band sang. “It broke something in our youth,“ Douglass says. “People started writing songs

youth ministry, all of us collectively awakened to what worship did in our hearts and to see things the way God sees things. Church was not just something we went to, but we actually affected the culture of our church. It made us feel like we had a part to play in church.” Garratt also recalls realizing how much the church aspect of Hillsong affected her. “When I was younger, I learned to compartmentalize church life,” she says. “And now everything just spills into the next part. I’m a daughter, I’m a friend, I’m a mother—and my relationship with God colors all these things.” United’s part in the church has become larger and larger. As United has grown, so has its global influence. What sprang from a late-night prayer session has become a worldtouring ministry that takes its conferences to stadiums. This influence has not been without its share of detractors. The greatest chorus of criticism against United’s worship conferences seems to be that they are too slick. Houston, however, dismisses this sentiment. “Churches that are considered mega[churches], people have these preconceived ideas of what it’s all about. People forget that it started small and grew,” he says. “At its heart [Hillsong] is a small church.”

“It’s a story of being thrown in the deep end and learning to swim. And we are swimming in a river of grace.” —Joel Houston every day. No matter if you were passionate about God or living for Him or not, God would just grab you if you wanted Him to or not.” “When we went back to church, we were young, and we told the church what we saw and they gave us the Sunday night service,” Houston says. “We were empowered.”

A Part to Play This spur-of-the-moment prayer and worship service became a regular event, as more young people got involved. “We started calling those nights United nights, and every week there were new songs being written,” Houston says. “That is where United was birthed.” It was here that Houston’s reticence to be involved in worship and music began to melt away. “I felt it had awakened something [in me]. I discovered what worship was,” he says. “It wasn’t so much music, it was our entire


A Giant, Small Ministry

In spite of its size, Houston says, the church still connects with people on an individual level. “When [people] look at the church, they see a machine. What they don’t see is in that machine are real lives connecting with a real God, focusing on real challenges. The church is a home for those people. “One of the greatest misconceptions is that everything is about appearance or how we present ourselves, whether it’s the worship, the conferences, through to our services. For lack of a better term, ‘the front’ that is Hillsong,” Houston continues. “Anyone that’s been part of the church for a long time would understand the whole thing is built on service and a spirit of servanthood. The overriding culture in our church is to do things with excellence, because if we believe what we believe and are passionate about it, we want to do it to the best of our abilities. The worship team is built on volunteers. We don’t hire musicians.” According to Houston, everything that goes into Hillsong comes out of a desire to advance God’s Kingdom. This holds true not only for those who, like him, are the very public face of the ministry, but for those behind the scenes as well. “The sound, the expressions,

the songs, they’re all about the overflow of our heart. Thousands of people who are willing to give up their holidays to serve in the carpark,” Houston says. “All those things people don’t see are the cogs in the big machine.” But it cannot be denied that Hillsong is slick and professional in appearance. A United worship tour travels with an array of state-of-the-art sound equipment and lighting. It’s a massive stage production on the level of any touring stadium rock act. The difference, Houston says, is the reason United has chosen to utilize these elements and the focus they put on them. “I’m really aware that the production is a flash in the pan,” he says. For Houston, the stage production is an act of stewardship. “Whatever we have at our disposal, I think it’s important to use it to the glory of God,” he says. “That’s the essence of what it means to worship God in our day-to-day lives.” All these resources, however, haven’t caused Houston to forget where United has come from or the real focus of their touring and conferences. “The journey for me is what keeps me anchored,” he says. “It seems not that long ago we were just a couple hundred young people meeting in an empty gym hall with just an old, brown speaker box. We were all on our knees crying out to God to use us. We prayed these prayers and we believed them. We’re living in their answered prayer.” It’s this history that Houston believes keeps United authentic amid the touring, the crowds and the success. “I pray we never lose that,” he says. “When we do, I think it will become obvious. For all the production, it’s real for us. It’s small thinking as followers of Christ to put some kind of limit on our expression of worship. It doesn’t matter how many bells and whistles and lights and sounds we use—that’s the Spirit, and I hope people catch that. That’s my prayer, and I really don’t want anything to do with it if that’s not the case.”

Start a Revolution As United has toured, its global vision has changed from presenting conferences to pursuing radical social change. “Rwanda was strangely the most shocking,” Garratt

“We’re not trying to build the story of Hillsong. We’re trying to build the story of Jesus.” —Joel Houston

says. “I knew the history of the genocide, and everywhere you looked there was evidence of what happened—someone was missing an arm, scars from a machete. At the same time, the people were so warm and beautiful and they would have every reason not to be. “You feel like it’s not right when you can just get on a plane and go back to where those things can’t even touch you.” So in 2006, United launched I-Heart, a multimedia project including albums, documentaries and networking websites that sought to bring the message of social justice to those who came in contact with United. The actual idea for the project came about as fortuitously as United itself. Houston says it had its genesis in a United tour in Colombia. “There was an I-Heart moment, an epiphany. The moment took place in Columbia four years ago,” he says. “My eyes were opened to something more that we are a part of. All of a sudden I got a bit more of what everything was

about. The diversity of culture, life and the rest of it. All of humanity has the same basic need, we all had the same call. Our purpose was value, love, compassion, justice. It was just so simple, we don’t understand it.” Douglass echoes that sense of seeing the basic need for God revealed in every culture. “It is a crazy and awesome thing—I can be anywhere else and there are people as passionate and hungry for God,” he says. “We can be somewhere like China and it is the same [passion] as America, a totally different culture. I think that is such a good thing.” The realization of the vision behind I-Heart came through sheer happenstance, Houston says. “There was our biggest crowd ever, and the power stopped. It was pitch black and silence, and Gabe [the drummer] just started a drum beat,” he says. “Then there was this roar. It was incredible, and it had nothing to do with us. They were already there and their hearts were prepared.

We were in front of the biggest crowd, and everything that was meant to happen didn’t happen. This big God encounter, it happened even without all the elements we can place so much emphasis on when it comes to creating a worship experience. I remember sitting back and having my own God moment thinking: ‘Wow. This is so much bigger than us.’” This moment led Houston to begin pondering the nature of worship. United had brought its particular style of music to a global audience, but Houston began to believe there could be a more concrete role for the group to play. “I could not get past the fact that worship was more than a song—it was a form of devotion,” he says. Webb says moments like these are usually when the most important things happen to United. “We have a saying when the sound check is going wrong, when it’s painful: If everything is going wrong, you know it’s going to be a good night,” he laughs. “That is when


God turns up, because you can’t do anything more. We get to a stadium halfway around the world to get out of the way.” Though I-Heart was launched in 2006, Houston still speaks of it as something in its infancy, still struggling to find the best way to address the injustices he’s witnessed firsthand around the world. “We want to make a difference in these lives, but I don’t know how,” he admits. “We have the website where people can tell their stories, but a lot of it is about catching the heart of it. The only way we can change our city is first by changing ourselves.”

enable us to do things that make an eternal difference.” Houston echoes Lentz and says it’s there—in the local community—where his heart is. The same goes for the other members of United as well. “Our chief responsibilities are at home,” Houston says. “The thing that people would never see about United is, when we all get on the tour bus after a big night, the guys are up until 2 in the morning dealing with emails and mentoring guys from a distance, sorting out rosters. Trying to fix all those problems and issues that exist in any church.”

“I could not get past the fact that worship was more than a song— it was a form of devotion.” —Joel Houston Ministers First, Musicians Second Yet, for all his touring with United and the global outreach of I-Heart, Houston still sees himself as a local church pastor. Though his “local” church has recently moved from Sydney to New York City. Houston is co-leading a Hillsong church plant in the Big Apple with Carl Lentz, a fellow Hillsong pastor and a longtime friend. “Joel and I have been best friends since we met in Bible college,” Lentz says. “We clicked due to our shared passion to reach people the Church tends to struggle to reach. One of my last nights there we were hanging on the beach, talking about the future, and I said: ‘I wonder when your dad is going to do something in America. If he ever did, me and you would have to do it together.’ Joel said: ‘For sure. And it would have to be somewhere crazy. And important. Like New York City.’” Lentz says the dream never left them, and now they’re finally seeing it come to fruition. The two hope to create a church environment that is uniquely NYC but also builds on the values that are core to Hillsong: to love life, love God and love people. “I’ve been told by native New Yorkers that often church plants come in and say, ‘This is what NYC needs!’ And they fail,” says Lentz, who handles the day-to-day operations, while Houston directs the creative and ensures Hillsong’s DNA runs through everything the young church plant does. “We have come in with the approach [of:] ‘What does NYC need? How can we fill those needs?’ So we will serve this city by not being presumptuous. We will earn the right to be heard. We will link arms with churches who have a history of fruitfulness in serving this community and believe God will give us wisdom straight from heaven, that will

These responsibilities continue when the United crew returns home, Houston says. And despite touring, the group is never far from its connection to the church. “It’s not hard for us to stay grounded, because we get home on a Saturday, and Saturday night those guys are leading at church. Sunday it’s all-day church, then we’re in the office all week,” Houston says. “That is what we do.” Without this connection to the local church, Houston says, United could not exist. “All the stuff we do with United, all the travel, all the international aspect is an overflow of what’s happening locally,” he says. “I wish people could see inside it, because I think that’s the strength of the whole thing. We’ve never seen ourselves as a band. We’ve never seen ourselves as a Christian artist. We’re a church. It all comes out of that.” This, Houston believes, is why people connect with United, why a church halfway around the world has gained a global identity and why United can hold a worship experience that never becomes pure consumer entertainment. “We’re not trying to put on a production,” he says. “We’re trying to inspire the church and let people know they have a part to play [in] what God is wanting to do across the earth. “We’re not trying to build the story of Hillsong,” he continues. “We’re trying to build the story of Jesus. I think the reason people come back is not because they heard some music and saw a good live show, but they encountered the Holy Spirit.” Hillsong United’s Video for “The Stand” Don’t know what this thing is? Check out page 6 for instructions, and then watch this video.

Many of us struggle to read the various parts of Scripture in a way that is life-changing. How do you read a psalm in a way that really sings? Or the law or the prophets in a way that talks to you?  Or ancient letters as if they just arrived in your mailbox? LifeWay, in partnership with Union University, has launched a biblical literacy initiative called Read the Bible for Life to help all of us grow in reading the Bible more effectively. The book at the heart of the initiative is now available online and in bookstores everywhere. In the book, scholars, pastors, and other friends talk us through how to read the Bible really well. So relax, pull up a chair and join the conversation as we learn to read the Bible for life.

by Rachel Held Evans

Five TIPS to help you through a dark time in your faith


I used to be the perfect Christian. I studied apologetics. I memorized Bible verses. I won awards for being an exceptionally good defender of Christianity. But everything fell apart the day I saw Zarmina’s execution on CNN. It was just before the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001, and the press had unearthed a bunch of old video footage that captured the brutality faced by women under the rule of the Taliban. A freshman in college, I watched with my classmates from the lobby of our dormitory as a woman enshrouded in a heavy, blue burqa arrived at a soccer stadium in Kabul in the back of a pickup truck. Accused of murdering her abusive husband, Zarmina had been convicted in a secret trial and beaten with steel cables until she confessed. Before nearly 30,000 spectators, she was dragged out to the soccer pitch, forced to her knees and shot. CNN repeatedly aired the footage, and each time I saw it, I got angrier and angrier at God. It was God who claimed to have formed Zarmina in her mother’s womb. It was God who ordained she be born in a developing country under an oppressive regime. It was God who had all the power and resources at His disposal to stop this sort of thing from happening. And worst of all, 20 years of Christian education assured me it was God who decided because Zarmina was a Muslim, she would suffer unending torment in hell for the rest of eternity. How the Taliban punished Zarmina in this life was nothing compared to how God would punish her in the next. Suddenly, abstract concepts about heaven and hell, election and free will, religious pluralism and exclusivism had a name: Zarmina. No longer satisfied with easy answers, I started asking harder questions—not

just about Zarmina, but about other issues that had secretly troubled me through the years, from biblical inerrancy, to evolution to politics. Within a year, the same faith that had been so strong and vibrant throughout most of my life showed signs of severe dehydration and shock. There were days when I longed for the sweet relief of giving up, of letting go of Christianity altogether and finding some other way out of this canyon of fear and doubt. I might have ended my faith for good were it not for that distant figure I could barely make out on the trail up ahead. Maybe Jesus hadn’t abandoned me after all.

The Sudden Presence of Doubt It’s not like my story is particularly special or unique or harrowing. Pretty much every twentysomething seems to go through their period of doubt—of questioning the faith they’d taken for granted, of even walking away for a while (or forever). But if there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that faith is resilient. It can survive just about anything. I know, because my faith shouldn’t be alive. I wish I could say my story is over, that I saw the light just in time and I’m recounting this tale from the comfort of certainty. But my journey continues, and I walk with a limp. And I’ve met others who are walking with a limp.

It’s out of conversations from this journey I’ve compiled this guide for doubters—five tips to make it through high peaks and low valleys.


Stick to the Essentials

The reason my questions turned into a crisis was because I held each one of my beliefs to be so essential that questioning one threatened to take all the others down. A literal interpretation of Genesis 1, for example, was just as important to my faith as the resurrection of Christ. Everything was fundamental, so nothing was fundamental. My faith was a house of cards. What drives most people away from Christianity is not the cost of discipleship, but rather the cost of false fundamentals. It seems a whole lot of people, both Christians and nonChristians, are under the impression you can’t be a Christian and vote for a Democrat, you can’t be a Christian and believe in evolution, you can’t be a Christian and be gay, you can’t be a Christian and have questions about the Bible, you can’t be a Christian and have hope for Zarmina, you can’t be a Christian and be a feminist, you can’t be a Christian and drink or smoke, you can’t be a Christian and get depressed, you can’t be a Christian and have any kind of doubt whatsoever.

Faith isn’t about being right or having all the answers or avoiding pain— it’s about refusing to give up when it seems like you should. Our generation is learning the hard way faith isn’t about being right or having all the answers or avoiding pain—faith is about refusing to give up when it seems like you should. Faith is about obeying in spite of doubt. It’s about following Jesus even when He looks like a mirage. Together we are finding doubt can actually strengthen faith, for doubt forces us to reconsider our beliefs and get rid of nonessentials, to rely on God Himself rather than our distorted understanding of Him. We are braver now, more willing to think critically and take risks and embark on those roads that are less traveled.

These false fundamentals make faith vulnerable. The longer the list of requirements and contingencies, the more susceptible faith becomes to outside threats. The yoke gets too heavy and we stumble beneath it. Centuries before anyone had heard of biological evolution, St. Augustine warned of creating false fundamentals in regard to our interpretation of Genesis. “In matters that are so obscure and far beyond our vision,” he wrote, “we find in Holy Scripture passages which can be interpreted in very different ways without prejudice to the faith we have received. In such cases, we should not rush in headlong and so firmly take our stand on one side that,


Keep living like Jesus. Keep loving your neighbor. Keep reaching out to the poor, the lonely, the oppressed and the weak. Keep obeying in spite of your doubts. if further progress in the search for truth justly undermines this position, we too fall with it.” That’s good advice from a man who wrestled with some pretty serious questions of his own.


Keep Moving

In the midst of some of the darkest days of my faith crisis, my sister invited me to join her in India, where she was working with a ministry that served orphans and widows. Considering the fact that issues related to religious pluralism triggered my doubt, traveling to the most religiously diverse country in the world seemed more like a form of shock therapy than a vacation.

But in India I encountered the Gospel in action. I met indigenous missionaries who voluntarily lived among the poorest of the poor and the sickest of the sick—just as Jesus did. As I helped in what little ways I could, I felt something like joy stirring inside of me. In caring for “the least of these,” I came face to face with Jesus once again. When you think you’ve lost it, the best way to find faith again is to simply keep moving. Keep living like Jesus. Keep loving your neighbor. Keep reaching out to the poor, the lonely, the oppressed and the weak. Keep obeying in spite of your doubts. My friend David, who has a doctorate in philosophy but is cool and understated about

it, once said: “The line between faith and doubt is the point of action. You don’t need certainty to obey, just the willingness to risk being wrong.” Sometimes you just have to take that risk. You have to obey first and believe second. I’ve taken that risk many times, and I have never been disappointed.


Don’t Be Afraid

Those who say having a childlike faith means never asking questions haven’t met too many children. Anyone who has kids or loves kids or has spent more than five minutes with kids knows kids ask a lot of questions. Rarely are they satisfied with short answers, and rarely do they spend much time absorbing your response before moving on to the next insistent “why?” or “how come?” Child psychologists say children do this not so much because they must know all of the answers, but because they crave attention from their parents. Questions are a child’s way of engaging in conversation with the adults they trust. Our relationship with our heavenly father is much the same. It is not so much the answers we seek, but rather a loving, honest


Unisex T-Shirt (Black)

Save 20% w/ Coupon Code: REL2011 – – TWITTER.COM/ABORT73 – CAUSES.COM/ABORT73 –

relationship with our Savior. God is not frightened or intimidated by our questions, and neither should we be. He is big enough to handle them and wise enough to respond with patience and grace. Serious doubt—the kind that leads to despair—begins not when we start asking God questions, but when, out of fear, we stop.

Asking challenging questions is important, but asking them just to unsettle someone else’s faith is wrong. God wants us to work through our doubts together, in community, but with a shared appreciation for the fact that our views are not the same. Be smart, but be careful—be wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove.



Respect Where Others Are At

Perhaps the most dangerous side effect of doubt is jealousy. It’s easy to get distracted by those who seem so certain and carefree on their journey up the mountain. I’ve found myself resenting Christians who don’t wrestle with the same questions as I, sometimes looking down on them with the assumption they simply don’t think as critically about their beliefs. I’ve learned the hard way that trying to drag other people along on my journey can do irreparable damage to faith and friendship. We need one another to survive, but we have to keep in mind our different strengths and weaknesses equip us for different trials. Sometimes you have to carry your friend. Sometimes you need to be carried. Sometimes your paths will suddenly diverge. Sometimes you will walk side by side.

Enjoy the View

The other day a friend asked me if I missed those “mountaintop moments” with God—you know, those moments when His presence is so overwhelming and real, they leave no room for doubt. I said I do, but I’m beginning to appreciate the view from where I am now. In the journey of faith, there is always something new and beautiful to see ... even if it’s from a low valley, a precarious cliff or a seemingly endless stretch of dry land. Remember, the Good Shepherd leads us not only beside quiet waters, but also through the valley of the shadow of death. Times of spiritual darkness do not necessarily reflect an act of disobedience or rebellion on the part of the believer. Sometimes doubt is just God’s way of leading us somewhere new.

So take notes, keep a journal, share your story. It all might make sense in hindsight and you will be glad you were paying attention. Remember Rainer Maria Rilke’s advice to the young poet: “Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. … Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.” My story may not be the most dramatic or the most inspiring, but I think it’s an important one to tell. Yours is too. I know from experience when you’re struggling with doubt, sometimes all it takes is the distant voice of a fellow traveler to get you through another day. Maybe God allows us to doubt so we can be that voice for others. Take it from me: Faith is resilient. Doubt is surmountable. God is good. I know, because my faith shouldn’t be alive ... but by the grace of God, it survives.

Rachel Held Evans is the author of Evolving in Monkey Town: How A Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask the Questions (Zondervan, 2010). She blogs at .

Many Lamps, One Light Prepare to serve in a world of religious difference.

Jill Morgan, MAMFT Student Louisville, KY

Explore these degrees | Master of Divinity, MA Marriage & Family Therapy, MA (Religion), Doctor of Ministry

800.264.1839 |

Connecting to

America’s Largest Generation At more than 78 million strong, the Millennials—those born between 1980 and 2000—have surpassed the Boomers as the larger and more influential generation in America. Now, as its members begin to reach adulthood, where the traits of a generation really take shape, best-selling research author ThoM RAiNeR (Simple Church) and his son Jess (a Millennial born in 1985) present the first major investigative work on Millennials from a Christian worldview perspective. The breadth and depth of this research will be of interest to anyone studying this generation. The Millennials is based on 1,200 interviews with its namesakes that aim to better understand them personally, professionally, and spiritually.

Available online and in bookstores everywhere.

18 hours of theology in every degree program. That’s 20% more than any other evangelical seminary.




Listen Here Don’t know what this thing is? Check out page 6 for instructions.

> The Decemberists have done big. They’ve written rock operas and prog anthems. Now, on their latest and best release, the band is doing less. They’ve enlisted Gillian Welch for this album, a collection of countrytinged songs with stirring harmonies and brilliantly simple choruses. The King Is Dead rolls along like early R.E.M., a circuitous-on-purpose excursion. Even the lyrics sort of make sense. “Rise to Me” is an elliptical poem (just 45 words and eight lines), but it’s powerful, weepy and joyous. “Down by the Water” is like Neil Young meets The Jayhawks. Musically, the band has never held together so tightly. Listen for Jenny Conlee’s frequent organ accents, or her wunderkind Wurlitzer parts on the closing song. On previous albums, frontman Colin Meloy was getting stuffy, his semi-insufferable longueurs hiding a brilliant wit and a genuine knowledge of what makes a musical hook. Fortunately, with King Is Dead both that wit and pop sense are back—in spades. If you see this symbol, it means we’re featuring a song from this project on We’re cool like that.



> Samuel Beam’s latest folk implosion

> The creative talents of Kim Walker-

starts with a gaseous fuzz and lyrics

Smith and Chris Quilala converge on

about getting a message from the Lord

the latest Jesus Culture release, an

on the opening track. He also sings

emotionally charged set recorded live

about Lazarus, lions and lambs, and

in Redding, Calif. Both singers never

other loosely spiritual musings—some

shy away from the overwhelming

with a few swear words, so be warned.

sense of God’s indwelling, sometimes

On “Tree by the River,” a song about

shouting or laughing with joy. The

sleeping in cars and falling in love, he

songs don’t mince words: It is all

adds chimes and a few happy choruses

about Jesus, never about us, and

he borrowed from Brian Wilson.

God is eternal and all-encompassing.

Check out “Half Moon”: It’s crazy like

Musically, the band has hit full stride

Modest Mouse and curiously complex

after five albums. “My Soul Longs for

like Sufjan Stevens, but the doo-wop

You” has a Sting edge and a U2 bite,

chorus is absolutely shiver-inducing.

especially on the exuberant finale. A

Kiss Each Other Clean is pure genius

few songs also take on an ambient rock

from start to finish.

tone, like the lilting “Let it Rain.”




> The Go! Team are like the Disney

The Radio Dept. Passive Aggressive: Singles 2002-2010 (Labrador)

> Joy Williams has gone reality-based.

> Like Brooke Fraser or maybe even

cartoon version of The Velvet

> The droopy-faced guy on the cover

The former CCM pop princess has left

Taylor Swift, Katie Costello is playing

Underground—fantastic pop

of The Radio Dept.’s compilation did

the confines of comfortable Christianity

with songwriting conventions. There’s

arrangements with a hired-gun female

not get the memo: shoegazing ambient

and embraced (but without being

a rat-a-tat chorus on the opening track

singer. Their indie cred comes from Ian

popcore is back with a vengeance,

consumed by) her dark side. Songs

with piano hammering up and down

Parton, who grafts disparate musical

time to cheer up! Like most brilliant

are about temptation and seduction,

the scales as she muses about the

styles—instrumental prog rock and boy

European bands who have suffered in

darkness and light. With John Paul

social conventions of making mix tapes.

band pop—into a strangely compelling

obscurity (see Frightened Rabbit, The

White on guitar and vocals, the band is

“Ashes Ashes” is all slippery soul and

amalgamation. English rapper Ninja

Twilight Sad), these Swedish rockers

ultra-simple: a light picking pattern and

enthusiastic pondering—akin to how

(whose real name is Nkechi Ka

throw out most of the rules—songs use

a searing duet, the occasional piano

Owl City can sing about nature, but you

Egenamba) sings like she’s on an old,

heavy distortion on the pianos and

interlude. It’s like Gillian Welch without

know there’s a deeper core. Melodies

variety cartoon show. The best songs,

sometimes linger on one particular

the country leanings. The song “Poison

seem to flutter by on “No Shelter”: an

including the all-instrumental “Bust-

chord progression for several eons,

& Wine,” which showed up on Grey’s

ephemeral synth accent in the intro, a

Out Brigade” and “Super Triangle,”

but still avoid predictable patterns.

Anatomy recently, is about how we’re

guitar solo that flies like the wind, all

could work equally well as the theme

“Peace of Mind” meanders along like

sometimes attracted to the right person

leading to a mildly explosive chorus. It’s

song for a Nickelodeon cartoon or for

a Stockholm river; “On Your Side” is

at the wrong time. If you liked their EP,

gratifying and wholly whimsical.

an Apple commercial.

chipper and sanguine at the same time.

you’ll love their debut full-length.

Shape Your Culture

You believe that redemptive, positive-value stories are worth telling. At Regent University, we will teach you to craft your stories in ways that are both compelling and meaningful. Let Regent teach you how to move your audience and leave a lasting impression.

888.777.7729 | Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctoral Degrees Cinema-Television • Communication Studies • Journalism • Theatre

Christian Leadership to Change the World

Regent University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award associates, baccalaureate, masters, and doctorate degrees. Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 300334097 or call 404.679.4500 for questions about the accreditation of Regent University. Regent University admits students without discrimination on the basis of race, color, disability, gender, religion or national or ethnic origin. Regent University is certified by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia to operate campuses within the Commonwealth of Virginia. COM095965


dvds/// THE SOCIAL NETWORK (COLUMBIA PICTURES., PG-13) > Based on Ben Mezrich’s book The Accidental Billionaires, David Fincher’s The Social Network tells the sort-of-true account of Mark Zuckerberg’s rise to power as the CEO of Facebook—a course in which he gained millions of “friends” but, in the end, lost everyone who mattered to him. The script, written with tantalizing dialogue by Aaron Sorkin, tells two parallel stories: One follows Zuckerberg as he develops his idea at Harvard alongside his close friend, Eduardo Saverin, and later in Los Angeles under the tutelage of Napster founder Sean Parker; the second examines two lawsuits that resulted in the wake of his success. Evoking 1941’s Citizen Kane, Fincher’s film portrays a tycoon who, despite having everything, is left empty. Jesse Eisenberg disappears inside the role of the smart, sarcastic Zuckerberg, while Andrew Garfield plays the betrayed Saverin with total sincerity. Justin Timberlake also shines as the opportunistic Parker. Trent Reznor’s score completes the film, making it not just a morality tale about the consequences of conceit and betrayal, but also a metanarrative for the realities of a new kind of social interaction.

Training for Full Time Christian Service Regardless of Occupation! Leadership Through Servanthood by Christ’s Indwelling, Resurrection Life. Practical Bible Teaching Genesis to Revelation: Christ Revealed in the Written Word.



> Starring Carey Mulligan, Andrew

> Rodrigo Garcia’s emotional

Garfield and Keira Knightley, this

drama follows the lives of three

adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s 2005

interconnected women: Lucy (Kerry

novel of the same name centers

Washington), who is seeking to adopt

on a love triangle in the midst of

a baby; Elizabeth (Naomi Watts), a

a dystopian England. Melancholic

lawyer whose promiscuousness leaves

both visually and thematically, it

her pregnant; and Karen (Annette

provides criticism on consumerist

Bening), Elizabeth’s biological

societies by reflecting on the love and

mother, who, as a teen, put her up for

relationships of people who are seen

adoption. The richly layered story,

as nothing more than resources to

with nuanced performances, always

make product. Despite its bleak tone,

points to something deeper and more

however, the film ultimately paints a

meaningful. Each shot and scene is

picture of hope in a rather hopeless

beautiful. Each moment and line is

world, challenging us to live for

powerful. And these crafted elements

today—a life about something bigger

are harmonized by a captivating score.

than ourselves—and in thankfulness

Most of all, though, Mother and Child

for what we have.

explores what it means to be human.

BOOKS/// TO THE END OF THE LAND DAVID GROSSMAN (KNOPF) > Like the land in which it is set, the lives depicted in To the End of the Land are fraught with competing claims and old wounds. David Grossman’s novel follows the story of Ora, a Jerusalem woman whose youngest son, Ofer, has reenlisted with the army for an operation into the Territories. Ora is terrified of the knock on her door that will come when Ofer has been killed, and in desperation she makes a cosmic bargain that if the officials cannot find Ora to notify her, then Ofer will be safe. So she flees to Galilee with her estranged lover (and Ofer’s biological father) to hike through a land where she cannot be found. Grossman has been called the conscience of his country—a difficult job description for anyone, but for an Israeli writer it seems a nearly impossible task: to write stories acknowledging both the existential threat to the Jewish people and the violence used in response. But Grossman accomplishes this with a seamless, beautiful narrative, telling of relationships too intertwined to unravel here. You will ache every time you pick up this book—and every time you have to put it down.

One.Life: Jesus Calls, We Follow SCOT McKNIGHT (ZONDERVAN)

at home: a short HIstory of private life bill bryson (doubleday)

> Scot McKnight argues in his latest

> Bill Bryson—a native Iowan who has

book, One.Life: Jesus Calls, We

lived for decades in England—writes

Follow, that Christians today have

as a perpetual outsider. In At Home,

an incomplete understanding of why

Bryson travels from room to room in

Jesus came to earth, claiming we have

his Victorian parsonage, investigating

focused too much on Jesus’ death and

the origins of the everyday objects

our religiosity. He paints a persuasive

he takes for granted. The resulting

picture of what it means to truly

journey is less awesome than an

follow Jesus today by adopting the

Australian walkabout, but it is actually

radical values of justice, community,

more interesting, more intimate and,

peace and love that Jesus

in a world increasingly disconnected

demonstrated in the Gospels. In One.

from itself, more important. The best

Life, McKnight challenges Christians

travel is about rediscovery of lost

to embrace the Kingdom vision Jesus

things, and in his new book, Bryson,

laid out for His followers and invites

whose previous work includes Neither

us to “let God’s kingdom work swallow up” every dimension of this life. Relevant 2_3.65 x one 4.98

Here Nor There, has rediscovered what it means to be 8/3/09 10:39 AMhere.Page 1

Live The Language • Stay with a host family • Native Spanish professors • Gain more fluency • Seville and beyond is your classroom or call us 800.748.0087




12 First Word 14 Letters 18 Slices 32 The Pulse: Can Offensive Art Be Christian? 34 WORLDVIEW: Resurrecting Liturgy 36 The Drop

Green River Ordinance, Lecrae, Bradley Hathaway

42 Re-Imagining Heaven 46 Ra Ra Riot 48 The Resurrection of Blue Like Jazz: The Movie 50 A Tea Party Gospel 54 Cold War Kids

Coming clean about faith, mistakes and entering a new season

60 11 Predictions for ’11 RELEVANT boldly predicts the trends

and train wrecks of 2011

64 One Day in the Slum 68 A Narrow Escape Aron Ralston was trapped in a crevasse for 127

hours, only freeing himself by an act of desperation

72 A Realistic Guide to Love 84 Why Faith Needs Doubt

Five tips to help you through a dark time in your faith

92 Recommends


What Are Those Boxes All Over the Issue? You might notice we’re tr ying something new. Throughout this issue you’ll see pixelated squares called QR codes that link to multimedia content, like a movie trailer or album. It’s a way we’re enhancing our music and film coverage—adding select video and audio content to our print magazine—and a step toward the multimedia integration you’ll see in upcoming app and tablet versions of RELEVANT. How does it work? Just download a QR code app for your smar t phone (there are plenty of good, free ones out there), launch the app and scan the code. The content—video, song, etc.—will pop right up. We know the squares aren’t the best looking things, but they could add a nice, new dimension to the print magazine experience. So, kick the tires on the QR codes and let us know what you think at feedback@

Make it matter.

College. What is it for? Getting a top-notch education so that you can start a successful career? Yes. Being stretched by books, professors and ideas? Most definitely. But at Biola, it’s even more. This is a place where, in an all-Christian community, you will be prepared for an influential future. At Biola, you’ll find a community that teaches, learns, and thinks deeply … and then does something about it.

Southern California | 1.800.OK.BIOLA |

Profile for RELEVANT Media Group

RELEVANT 49 | January/February 2010  

Most people have a love-hate relationship with change. That's why RELEVANT is starting off 2011 with indie rockers Cold War Kids, whose new...

RELEVANT 49 | January/February 2010  

Most people have a love-hate relationship with change. That's why RELEVANT is starting off 2011 with indie rockers Cold War Kids, whose new...